Aussies are losing millions to online shopping scams in 2021

Are you worried about online shopping scams? 81% of Aussies say they are, and it appears they have good reason to be.

Kate Reynolds
Digital Content Editor
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Published on November 04, 2021
3 min read

As of October 2021, Australians have lost more than $4.8 million (AUD) to online shopping scams. And with Christmas, Click Frenzy and Black Friday shopping on the horizon, it’s important to head into the silly season with caution.

To help shoppers avoid online shopping scams and being swizzled out of their hard-earned cash, we analysed data from ScamWatch (The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and surveyed Aussies to learn about their experiences with online shopping scams.

Which states lost the most to online shopping scams?

In 2021, New South Wales was hit the hardest, reporting a loss of $1.55 million to online shopping scams. Victoria closely trailed behind at $1.51 million, while Queenslanders reported a loss of $888K. In total, the amount Australians have lost to these scams adds up to $4,877,333.

Online shopping scams in Australia by state

So how can we protect ourselves from falling victim to online shopping scams moving forward?

What Aussies should know about online shopping scams

Since the beginning of the pandemic, online shopping has been on the rise thanks to not being able to shop in-store. In fact, 67% of Aussies say they’ve been shopping online more since the start of the pandemic. This has made conditions ripe for scammers to take advantage of people who are trawling through online sites and marketplaces in search of a bargain. Arming yourself with a few facts about online shopping scams can help protect you.

  • August had the highest number of reports: in August 2021 there were 2,318 reports of online shopping scams, and a loss of $975,000.
  • Young people are hit the hardest: while we might think the less technologically-savvy older generation might be the ones to succumb to online shopping scams, the age group that lost the most to online shopping scams were actually 25-34 year olds.
  • Straight to junk mail: the largest amount of money lost was scams via email, with more than $2 million lost so far this year. Phone and text messages had the highest number of reports to the ACCC (7526 reports in 2021 so far) that amounted to just over $500k.
  • It’s not just tech products: in fact, the number one item Aussies got scammed on last year? Pets. Australians lost more than $2 million to online shopping scams involving pets in 2020. The next highest item was shoes, followed by vehicles, then phones.
Infographic: August 2021 so far had the highest number of reports of online shopping scams and the largest amount of money lost. 2,318 reports and $975k lost.

When asked in a survey, Aussies said:

  • 42% say they have been scammed while online shopping.
  • 81% say they worry about being scammed while online shopping.
  • 67% say they find themselves shopping online more since the start of the pandemic.

As to why we’ve started shopping online more, there’s a number of reasons, and they’re not all pandemic related.

  • 27% of these say that’s because lockdown made it more difficult to shop
  • 20% say it’s more convenient to shop online
  • 16% say they were worried about contracting COVID-19 if they went in-store
  • 13% say it saves time
  • 12% say there are better prices online
  • 11% say they shop online out of boredom
Survey statistics for online shopping scams in Australia

Tips to protect yourself from online shopping scams

There’s a number of things to look out for to help avoid online shopping scams. The ACCC has a number of tips to help consumers avoid online shopping scams.

  • If it’s too good to be true, it is: often products like phones and laptops are advertised online at prices well, well below the RRP. This is often a red flag for online shopping scams. Do your research and find out what a reasonable price is for the item, and be wary with cheap offers.
  • Be cautious with classified sites: according to the ACCC people often post fake ads on marketplace sites like Gumtree or Facebook. Check the seller’s profile on the classified site if you can, and avoid direct bank transfers, or using cryptocurrency to pay.
  • Don’t click on it: if you have bought something online, often you’ll receive scam emails and texts telling you about your delivery. If you receive an email or text from an unknown sender asking you to click on a link - don’t. Australia Post will never ask you to click on a link and fill out your personal details. If in doubt, contact Australia Post directly through legitimate channels and ask. For more information on how to identify a scam text message, check out this article How To Stop Spam Messages by WhistleOut.

Also take the time to check reviews of the site and products to see if what you’re purchasing is legitimate. We know this is easier said than done with fake reviews littering the online space, but we have some tips and tricks to help identify fake reviews.

And if you think you’ve been the victim of an online shopping scam, the first thing to do is to contact your bank, as well as the platform you were using and let them know what happened.

According to the ACCC, most financial institutions offer a chargeback service for credit cards and will dispute a credit transaction with the merchant (if they still exist.)

Methodology

To calculate how many Australians have fallen victim to online shopping scams in 2021 and how much money was lost, we gathered and analysed data from ScamWatch (The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and surveyed 1,000 Australians.

Sources

Kate Reynolds
Written by
Kate Reynolds
Kate Reynolds is a writer who's at her happiest when there's haloumi on the brunch menu and a dog to give pats to. She's worked as a travel writer, journalist, theatre reviewer, broadcaster and radio creative, and spends her weekends with as much of the aforementioned haloumi and dogs as possible.

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