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SCAM SPOT: Bargain or bust?

12:00pm April 05 2023

In the seventh episode of Westpac Wire's Scam Spot series, head of fraud and financial crime insights Benjamin Young shares tips on how to avoid falling for buying and selling scams. (Thomas Evans)

The internet has dramatically changed how we shop. You can order the most obscure and hard to find item and it is delivered to your doorstep at astonishing speed.

This applies to buying second-hand as well. Buying and selling between peers has increased in popularity, and the online marketplace is thriving.

However, the rise of online shopping has opened opportunities for more scammers, posing as sellers, to swindle money from eager buyers.

While peer-to-peer transfers – or PayAnyones – can be great if you pick the goods up in person and transfer the money after you have confirmed the purchase is as advertised, it gets riskier if you make upfront payments, deposits, or have an item shipped to you. This is where scammers love to play.

A scammer may disappear and delete their account after you make the payment, send you faulty goods, or trick you into sending more money than required.

And scammers can pose as buyers too. Many of the buyer-based scams involve some version of claiming to overpay you and then getting you to refund the excess. Any talk of over-payment, or account upgrading, are red flags and should be approached with caution.

When you shop with a card and pay directly to a merchant, the card schemes protect you by vetting online sellers and keep scammers out. So, if you are scammed on a merchant website, or if the goods are materially below the standard advertised, they will facilitate a refund.

However, these protections don’t exist for many buyers and sellers on marketplaces. Here are some tips that might help you avoid falling for buying and selling scams:

1. Any large-scale merchant that doesn’t offer you a card-based method of payment or BPAY should be immediately treated with suspicion.

2. Don’t pay for significant items in a peer-to-peer payment until you are there picking it up, or they have proven its existence to you in a compelling way.

3. Ask to pay a person’s PayID rather than their BSB and Account number. This will provide you the recipient’s name before you pay them.

4. And finally, if you pay with a card, for even more protection, use a digital card with a Dynamic CVC if your bank offers one.

A little caution and using safer payment methods can save you a whole world of trouble.

For more information about the latest scams, go to Westpac's Latest Scams & Alerts info.

Ben Young is Westpac’s Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Insights. Ben’s team researches and operates Westpac’s key fraud protection processes for the ~25 million transactions processed each day by the bank, particularly around credit cards, internet banking, branch and applications for credit. Ben has been intimately involved in Westpac’s fraud processes since 2007 and has worked in various data led risk processes since 1997.

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