Scammers prey on online shoppers at Christmas time

Online shopping is on the rise, but is it good for us?
Online shopping is on the rise, but is it good for us?

A CONSUMER advocate warns the increase in online trading this Christmas could bring out more fraudsters looking to prey on time-poor and budget conscious consumers.

The consumer advocate warns schemes involve not only taking money, but personal information for purposes of identity theft.

Non-Legal Director of MyCRA Lawyers,Graham Doessel, says any unfamiliar retailer should be treated with caution, particularly those seeking personal information.

Non-Legal Director of MyCRA Lawyers is a firm which helps clients dispute their credit rating.

"Consumers should be weary of those retailers seeking more personal information than would normally be necessary for a standard transaction, as we know that personal information can be stored and used to commit identity theft against unsuspecting consumers," Mr Doessel says.

"If fraudsters are able to get enough personal information they can request replacement copies of identification in your name and gain hold of your credit rating, so it may be your personal details that the crooks are really after."

He warns that unlike cases of bank fraud, where consumers may be reimbursed for stolen funds, an identity fraud case can be much more complicated and harder to recover from.

"An identity theft victim may not always know the exact circumstances leading to debts in their name. In some cases they don't even know they've been a victim until they apply for credit. There can be defaults and Judgments against their name which see them locked them out of credit for five years," he says.

According to the ACCC's annual report on scam activity, online shopping scams have increased by 65 per cent since 2011. The ACCC cites the increase in online activity as the reason for the rise in scams.

The Government's Stay Smart Online website provides some online transaction safety advice:

  • Be wary if the website looks suspicious or unprofessional or makes unrealistic promises. Bargains which look too good to be true often are.
  • Only pay via a secure web page-one that has a valid digital certificate.
  • Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct debit, as these can be open to abuse. Never send your bank or credit card details via email.
  • Always print and keep a copy of the transaction. Keep records of any emails to and from the seller.
  • Always conduct transactions within the auction website. Avoid private contact or payment directly with buyers or sellers-scammers will often use this ploy to 'offer a better deal.   

Mr Doessel says if people worry they may have been caught out by identity theft this Christmas, they should act quickly to prevent credit file repercussions.

"They should contact Police immediately, as well as their bank. They should also order a copy of their credit report - which would indicate if their credit file had been misused," he says.

In some cases victims may need the services of a credit reporting lawyer following identity theft to help with recovering their good name.

Topics:  christmas fraud online shopping scam

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