Aussies have been warned about a very convincing scam targeting Black Friday shoppers online.
As retailers prepare for one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, it is not unusual to see businesses doing free giveaways or running competitions on their social media pages.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year sales are all popular times for retailers to run these types of competitions.
However, it has been revealed scammers are using these events to fleece participants and get them to hand over their private information.
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Australian digital marketing agency, CJ&CO, recently experienced this new scam tactic first-hand when running a giveaway competition on a client’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Initially, the response to the competition was fantastic, with the client being “showered with love from their customers and fans”.
“But that quickly changed. A would-be overseas scammer tried to ruin this festive giveaway and scam their beloved customers for their private information and possibly trying to get access to their bank accounts,” the company said.
“And it was surprising to see how quickly they initiated the whole scam. From Facebook to landing pages, they had created a copy of our client’s pages to lure in customers.”
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CJ&CO said the situation began with the scammers messaging customers who had commented on the client’s Facebook post about the giveaway.
The scammer would message the participant from a fake account they created to look like the company’s own page and tell them they had won the competition.
To claim the prize, the customers were told they had to sign in to the link attached to the message, which redirected them to a website where they were told to “register” their details.
“Once the customers click on the ‘Register’ button, they are taken to the Sign Up page, where the site requests email addresses and passwords,” the agency said.
“And in most instances, we keep using the same password for everything because it’s easier to remember. (Pro tip: different passwords for everything)
“In this scenario, the scammers get access to email accounts that are often linked with bank accounts, credit cards etc.”
The next step in the process is where customers really started to become concerned, the company said.
The scammers asked the “winners” to send an initial $1 through a payment gateway that only used credit cards.
By doing this, customers would be exposing their credit card details, putting them at risk of credit card fraud.
To add to the authenticity of the scam, the web page even explained why a credit card was needed, telling customers it was to verify their geographic location and ensure they are entitled to the prize on offer.
“The customers only wanted to participate in a giveaway where they could win something for themselves or their family this festive season,” CJ&CO said.
The company said being caught up in this scam attempt left a “bitter taste for these customers”.
Luckily, the agency said it managed to put a stop to the scam before it could “damage our client’s reputation or their customers’ finances”.
“But this incident has shined a light towards the pitiful condition of scamming throughout Australia,” CJ&CO said.
“We launched the giveaway, and the scammers built a landing page within a few days and started rerouting the customers.”
Casey Jones, Director & Head of Marketing at CJ&CO, said his company reported the scam to Facebook, with disappointing results.
“We reported the scam page to Facebook through their reporting system, but despite submitting multiple reports, Facebook repeatedly denied the request to remove the page and associated posts,” he said.
“Facebook said that they reviewed the profile, but decided not to take the profile down.”
Mr Jones questioned who was in charge of policing these scams and protecting Aussies, saying many people wouldn’t know they were being scammed “until it’s too late”.
“Overseas scammers are targeting Aussie businesses and their customers at an alarming rate,” he said.
“We know of a household name that was hit at the exact same time. They were apologising to their users, but it’s not their fault.”
The agency warned that customers need to be aware of the “fundamentals” of the giveaway they are signing up for and it always verify if they are being messaged by a legitimate business account.
“At the same time, anyone who wants to do a future giveaway should clearly state how the winners will be announced to clear the confusion among the participants,” the agency said.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) latest Targeting Scams report revealed Aussies lost more than $2 billion to scams in 2021.
The report compiles data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, major banks and money remitters, and other government agencies, and is based on analysis of more than 560,000 reports.
Reported losses to all organisations totalled almost $1.8 billion, but as one-third of victims do not report scams the ACCC estimated actual losses were well over $2 billion.
“Scam activity continues to increase, and last year a record number of Australians lost a record amount of money,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Scammers are the most opportunistic of all criminals: they pose as charities after a natural disaster, health departments during a pandemic, and love interests every day.
“The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families, and businesses.”