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Tipped off to social media scams

15 May 2017

As the incidence of scams and losses from scams continue to rise, Queenslanders are being reminded that anyone can be a scam target at any time.

Today marks the start of National Consumer Fraud Week (15–19 May), which aims to assist consumers to identify and avoid scams, with a focus this year on spotting social media scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Targeting scams 2016 report, released today, reveals almost $300 million was reported lost to scams by Australians in 2016, a 31 per cent increase over the previous year. The proportion of scams using social media is on the rise as well, with a 250 per cent increase in reports since 2015.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said now, more than ever, consumers were finding themselves the targets of deceitful tactics via social media.

“The ease of initiating and maintaining contacts using fake profiles is a big draw card for scammers to use social media, particularly those engaged in romance-based scams,” Mr Bauer said.

“Those who find themselves the victim of a romance scam part with an average of $25,000 before they realise the person they thought they could trust is in fact a heartless scammer.

“With so much misinformation, it can be hard to tell the difference between genuine or fake profiles, and between legitimate and fake business ads.

“Consumers buying goods or services over social media should be aware they run a real risk that the bargain they they’ve found doesn’t exist or is worth much less than they’ve paid.”

By age group, Australians under 35 most often reported falling victim to online buying and selling scams. For those aged 45 to 55, investment scams were the most common, and dating and romance scams most affected those aged 55 to 64.

Mr Bauer said anyone could be targeted by a scam, and approaches could be made via any number of methods including social media, SMS, mail, phone or even in person.

“Scammers invest a lot of time and effort in making personalised approaches, so consumers need to be extra careful about the personal information they share online,” Mr Bauer said.

Consumers can spot and avoid social media scams by following some simple advice.

  • Check the profile of new friend requests, especially if you have only met the person online. Look out for:
  • Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person.
  • new profiles with limited content
  • hidden friend lists or friend lists full of people of the opposite gender
  • profiles that read like a dating profile
  • grammar and spelling errors.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with someone, especially if you’ve never met them before in person. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
  • People may be able to see more about you than you realise on social media. When you use social networking sites, be careful who you connect with and learn how to use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe.
  • If you have been scammed online, take steps to secure your account and be sure to report the conduct to the platform.
  • Check reviews before buying online. A reputable seller will have positive reviews on independent websites.
  • If the product doesn’t arrive, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible.
  • Check any website URL you are redirected to is the genuine website of the trader.

Visit the Scamwatch website for more information about social media scams, how to protect yourself and what to do if you’ve been scammed.

The ACCC’s Targeting scams 2016 report is available on the ACCC website.

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Last updated
15 May 2017
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