Queensland Police have issued an urgent warning to Aussie shoppers eagerly preparing for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Despite COVID-19 putting a massive burden on the pockets of many families, close to $2 billion worth of sales are expected to be made across the busy four-day period.
It’s prompted authorities to warn people about the dangers of shopping online, with fears heartless scammers will be preying on people’s generosity and vulnerability at this time of the year.
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“More people are shopping online this year due to COVID restrictions and scammers are now targeting people doing their Christmas shopping, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales,” Detective Inspector Vince Byrnes from the Financial and Cyber Crime Group said.
He said the scammers are using fake websites which look like genuine online stores, so sometimes it’s hard to determine the difference between a legitimate or fake website.
“We’re asking the community to be alert to popular products being offered for very very discounted prices,” Detective Inspector Byrnes said.
“If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.”
This year alone, online shopping scams have increased by a whopping 42 per cent, with crims taking advantage of more people buying goods online due to the pandemic.
Already, Scamwatch has received more than 12,000 reports of online shopping scams with known losses of more than $7 million.
Detective Inspector Byrnes said there’s a number of security actions locals can take to protect themselves against scammers, including using secure websites with HTTPS, avoid using public wi-fi when purchasing items online and to always pay for products using a credit card or known payment platform.
“Also most importantly, when we’re buying online with retail, we should be using complex passwords… don’t use the same password for every account because scammers can easily guess if its a simple password and once they have that password they may have access to your personal and private information”.
While most scammers are believed to be based overseas, police said their investigations have uncovered a number of scammers here in Australia.
“We are reminding everyone to be alert and report any suspicious or unusual activity to Scamwatch,” Detective Inspector Byrnes said.
Anyone who falls victim to cybercrime is being urged to report the matter quickly via ReportCyber where it will be referred to the right law enforcement agency to investigate.
However, police said that Australian shoppers need to be aware that police are unable to recover any money lost.