ACCC steps up anti-scam campaign

Two publications released to help consumers and small businesses

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released two publications as part of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce’s 2010 Fraud Week campaign, which aims to educate people and businesses on the risks of online shopping.

Tips for a Fine Time Shopping Online aims to help consumers buy safely online, as well as inform them about the security issues that may arise. Small Business Scams explains the different types of scams that target small business and provides advice for owners on how to avoid being a victim.

ACCC deputy chair and chair of the taskforce Peter Kell said that the Internet was a useful tool for shopping but consumers needed to be vigilant.

"In the past year the ACCC has recorded a 100 per cent increase in reports about online shopping scams," Kell said. "Nearly 70 per cent of consumers that contacted the ACCC about scams during 2009 said they were contacted by scammers via the Internet."

The tips in the shopping online guide include finding out the seller's contact details, using secure payment systems and protecting personal details, as well as advice on what to do if things go wrong.

ACCC deputy chair responsible for small business Michael Schaper believed that the scams targeting small businesses were becoming more sophisticated. Scammers are going to great lengths to fool businesses with documents and offers that seem legitimate.

"In 2009 the ACCC has recorded a 60 per cent increase in the number of complaints about false billing scams — one of the main types of scams that target small businesses," Schaper said. "A typical example of this is where a small business is sent a subscription form disguised as an outstanding invoice. This is an attempt to trick the recipient into signing up for unwanted advertising services."

Small business scams can also include can dubious office supplies that were never ordered. More recently, overpayment scams and dodgy investment opportunities have been added to the mix.

An ACCC report revealed that Australians lost almost $70 million to scammers last year. The ACCC publications will be available free of charge from the ACCC Web site or by calling the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.

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