After clicking on what appeared to be a legitimate advertisement for a dog breeder, Richard* was redirected to a website where he was able to select and purchase a new puppy for him and his family.
He transferred $3,000 to the organisation for the purchase of his newest family member.
Unfortunately, Richard was duped.
After transferring the money, Richard didn’t hear from the company. Worse still, when he tried to get in touch, he couldn’t. The fake company had scammed Richard out of thousands of dollars.
Richard is just one of many Australians who have fallen victim to a scam, which was – in this instance – run by an overseas crime syndicate.
Since the beginning of the year, the ACCC’s Scamwatch has received 1,373 reports of puppy scams.
August was the worst month, with 291 scams reported and losses totalling almost $300,000. Throughout 2020, Australians have lost more than $1.3 million to puppy scams alone — four times more than all of 2019.
More broadly, scams have cost the nation more than $77 million this year. And that's a conservative estimate, as not every scam victim reports it to Scamwatch – so the true cost is likely to be far greater.
While some types of scams have been around for a long time, others are new – such as coronavirus related scams like Richard’s – that prey on people’s fears and changing behaviours due to the pandemic.
Richard’s story is an example of an online shopping scam whereby scammers set up fake websites or adverts online to lure people into buying some of their goods. When the customers make the purchase, the goods end up being at best faulty, counterfeit, or not to the standard advertised, and at worst, the product is completely fake and therefore never arrives.
They might even hide in their terms and conditions, some additional charges, and then the customers might get overcharged.
James Roberts, CBA General Manager Group Fraud, said scams cause a lot of emotional and financial harm in the community.
“Scammers are everywhere and, unfortunately, in the current environment it’s even more likely that they will target people as many of us are feeling more vulnerable. It’s important to be vigilant on social media, when shopping online or answering the phone, and never give anyone who has contacted you out of the blue your personal details, banking details or remote access to your computer – no matter who they say they are. Remember, your information is valuable and you should always protect it,” he said.