Aussies have been warned of a very convincing scam targeting Black Friday shoppers online.
As retailers gear up for one of the busiest shopping times of the year, it’s not uncommon for businesses to offer free giveaways or run contests on their social media pages.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years Eve are popular times for retailers to run these types of competitions.
However, it has been found that scammers use these events to trick attendees into giving out their private information.
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Australian digital marketing agency, CJ&CO, recently experienced this new scam tactic firsthand when they ran a giveaway contest on a client’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Initially, the response to the competition was fantastic, with the client being “swarmed with love from their customers and fans”.
“But that changed quickly. A would-be scammer from abroad has been trying to ruin this celebratory giveaway and swindle their beloved customers out of their private information and possibly trying to gain access to their bank accounts,” the company said.
“And it was surprising to see how quickly they initiated the whole scam. From Facebook to the landing pages, they had made a copy of our clients’ pages to attract customers.”
According to CJ&CO, the situation began when the scammers notified customers who had commented on the customer’s Facebook post about the giveaway.
The scammer sent the contestant a message from a fake account they created to look like the company’s own page, stating that they had won the contest.
To claim the prize, customers were told they had to log in to the link attached to the message, which redirected them to a website asking them to “register” their details.
“Once customers click the register button, they are redirected to the login page, where the website asks for email addresses and passwords,” the agency said.
“And in most cases we always use the same password for everything because it’s easier to remember. (Pro tip: different passwords for everything)
“In this scenario, the scammers gain access to email accounts, which are often linked to bank accounts, credit cards, etc.”
The next step in that process is where customers really started to worry, the company said.
The scammers asked the “winners” to first send $1 through a payment gateway that only uses credit cards.
By doing so, customers would reveal their credit card details and put them at risk of credit card fraud.
To underscore the authenticity of the scam, the website even explained why a credit card was required, telling customers that this was the case in order to verify their geographic location and ensure they were eligible for the prize being offered.
“Customers just wanted to enter a giveaway where they could win something for themselves or their family this holiday season,” CJ&CO said.
The company said being implicated in this scam attempt left a “bitter taste on these customers.”
Fortunately, the agency said it managed to stop the scam before it could “damage our clients’ reputations or their clients’ finances.”
“But this incident has shed light on the deplorable state of fraud across Australia,” CJ&CO said.
“We launched the giveaway and within days the scammers created a landing page and started redirecting 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 has repeatedly declined requests to remove the page and related posts,” he said.
“Facebook said they reviewed the profile but decided not to delete the profile.”
Mr Jones asked who was responsible for monitoring these scams and protecting Australians, saying many people would not know they were being scammed “until it is too late”.
“Overseas scammers are targeting Australian 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 have apologized to their users, but it’s not their fault.”
The agency warned that customers need to be aware of the “basics” of the giveaway they’re signing up for and always verify they’re being notified from a legitimate business account.
“At the same time, anyone wishing to give a future giveaway should clearly state how winners will be announced to eliminate confusion among attendees,” the agency said.
Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) latest report on targeted fraud revealed that Aussies lost more than $2 billion to fraud in 2021.
The report compiles data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, major banks and money transfer companies and other government agencies and is based on the analysis of more than 560,000 reports.
Reported losses for all organizations totaled nearly $1.8 billion, but with a third of victims not reporting fraud, the ACCC estimates actual losses at well over $2 billion.
“Fraud activity continues to ramp up and over the past year a record number of Australians have lost a record amount,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
“Scammers are the most opportunistic of criminals: they pose as a charity after a natural disaster, as a public health agency during a pandemic, and as love interests every day.
“The true cost of fraud is more than a dollar as it also causes serious emotional damage to individuals, families and businesses.”
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