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Beware scammers this Christmas shopping season

09:30am December 11 2023

Christmas is a busy time for shoppers, and scammers. (Getty)

The Christmas shopping season typically marks the annual peak in scam activity as criminals seek to exploit consumers hunting for bargains online, and this year is no different.

The latest data from Westpac has found buying and selling scams are up 47 per cent from last year. These scams target customers by advertising competitive prices through fake websites, social media ads or online marketplaces.

“Scammers often target customers at this time of year when people are spending more and can sometimes be a bit more distracted,” says Ben Young, Westpac’s head of financial crime insights.

Westpac facilitated more than 31 million point-of-sale transactions during the recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales leading to a 5 per cent increase in fraud-related calls.

“Our research shows more Aussies are also seeking out bargains to help fund their festive season. While this is a great way to make the Christmas budget stretch further, it unfortunately also means we might be more susceptible to fake offers promising sought-after items at competitive prices,” says Young.

Westpac has rolled out a range of new scam prevention initiatives saving customers more than $235 million in scam-related losses over the last year. The bank is now detecting over 60 per cent of all cases.

When shopping online, Young recommends Westpac customers use their Digital Card available in the app to make purchases. This has a security code, known as a Dynamic CVC, which changes every day for added security and is reducing fraud rates by 80 per cent.

“If a business requests unusual payment methods, such as through cryptocurrency or as a direct bank transfer, you should take extra care and check if the business is legitimate before sending them any money,” he adds.

Common scams tactics to watch out for:

• Fake websites. Scammers entice victims with competitive prices through fake sites. Be wary when purchasing from brands or websites you’ve either never heard of or bought anything from before, particularly if advertised on social media.

• Fake parcel delivery messages. Scammers prey on ‘parcel anxiety’ – where you anxiously await updates on something you’ve ordered online – and issue fake delivery updates through SMS or via email asking you to click on links. Never click on links and use provided tracking numbers to independently review a delivery status. 

• Fake investments. Offers that appear too good to be true, usually are. Always conduct thorough research, discuss an opportunity with friends or family and consult with an expert before making any investment decisions. 

James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

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