It really seems only a slight exaggeration to say that there are as many scams as there are classified advertisements, but given the huge volume of classified advertisements, the numbers are relatively low.
There are also fake lotteries, advance-fee frauds, get-rich-quick schemes and miracle health cures are just some of the favoured means of separating the unwary from their money. These scams evolve and morph all the time.
Some think scams are all about large sums of money, but in fact some scams are just about targeting a large number people over just a small amount of money. In other instances scams are just about phishing for personal information.
Scammers target people from types of backgrounds, ages and income levels and the scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated as scammers go to great lengths to be convincing.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that almost six million people are exposed to scams and frauds during any given year, with over 800,000 falling victim in some way. The financial losses are of major concern – with almost $1 billion in losses – a good part of which will go out of the Australian economy.
A scam succeeds because it looks like the real thing, as often advertisements even include pictures and other details – often copied from a genuine seller’s ad. Scammers are manipulative – they push your buttons to produce the response they want.
Some scams may also be criminal offences. Someone who commits fraud has acted dishonestly or by omission to deliberately deceive someone. Fraud is regulated under various acts, including state and territory criminal legislation and under Australia’s common law. There may be overlap between misleading and deceptive conduct under the consumer protection laws, and fraud in criminal law.
Ways of checking if you feel that a potential advertiser is a scammer are:
- Request a number of photos of the item from the seller, if they refuse it may be that they have stolen a photo from a genuine ad and have no others;
- Do an internet search using the exact wording in the ad as many well-known scams can be found this way;
- Check the details – do the names on the credit card and emails match? What about the telephone numbers is it a local number?
Fraud Week 2013 is an initiative of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce includes 22 government regulatory agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand that work alongside private sector, community and non-government partners to prevent fraud. The ACFT has conducted a range of fraud prevention and awareness-raising activities since 2006.
The Newspaper Works is a proud partner of the taskforce and urges you to protect yourself against scams.
- Lianne Richards is the executive director (advertising regulation), The Newspaper Works.