How puppies and shipping containers cost us $13m in scams

Shipping containers were a new scam trend this year and pet scams almost doubled as crims took advantage of pandemic container shortages and our love for furry friends to keep us company in lockdown.

Nov 23, 2021, updated Nov 23, 2021
Puppy scams have been joined by shipping containers among the nation's most successful scams. (File image).

Puppy scams have been joined by shipping containers among the nation's most successful scams. (File image).

Australians have been fleeced of $12.9 million in online shopping scams so far this year and a new trend has been shipping container scams.

Details of the latest frauds and how much they are costing us have been released as Christmas approaches and many head online to pick up gifts.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has urged shoppers to be careful of dodgy online deals.

So far this year Scamwatch has received more than 26,000 reports of online shopping scams, more than the total amount received in 2021.  Those aged 25-34 years lost the most money to scams at $2.4million.

The ACCC said the number of reports involving financial loss had decreased this year, indicating more people are recognising scams, but those who lost money lost more than previously. The average loss per person this year is $1450 compared to $1190 last year.

Some of the most significant losses throughout the year relate to high-value purchases such as vehicle sales and shipping containers.

The ACCC says that shipping container scams were a new trend this year, fleecing more than $676,000 from consumers. They were on marketplaces and classified sites but scammers had also created fake websites and pretended to have real ABNs.

A global shortage of shipping containers is believed to be behind the increased demand and associated scams.

Pet scams, which took on a new life during the pandemic as more and more locked down people sought to buy pets, were the most reported throughout the year and the most financially damaging, with losses increasing by 78 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Scamwatch received more than 2800 reports of pet scams which accounted for an astounding $3.5 million in losses for the year.

More than $1.9 million was lost on vehicle sale scams.

According to the ACCC, the top 10 products reported in online shopping scams up to October 31, 2021, were – pets, vehicles, heavy machinery, shipping containers, caravans, computers and electronic equipment, mobile phones, jewellery, handbags and shoes.

Scammers create fake accounts on social media platforms and post fake ads on legitimate classifieds websites.

ACCC deputy chair, Delia Rickard, warned online shoppers to be alive to the possibility of scams.

“This is a very busy time of year and scammers often try to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers rushing to organise gifts,” Rickard said.

“While some scammers try to make online stores look legitimate by requesting payment via PayPal or credit card, always double check that the real PayPal platform is being used. Be suspicious of too good to be true offers and any sellers that ask you to pay by bank transfer, gift cards or cryptocurrency.”

She urged buyers to research the seller, search online for the product or company name plus ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’ to see what people are saying.

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