The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning bargain hunters to be careful where they click during the run-up to Christmas.

ACCC’s Scamwatch has seen a 42 per cent uptick in the amount of money Australians have lost to online shopping scams this year with around $7 million being taken from unsuspecting shoppers.

“More people have been shopping online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and scammers are now targeting people doing their Christmas shopping, including in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

“Scammers create fake websites that look like genuine online stores, offering products at very low prices and victims will either receive a fake item or nothing at all.

“They also post fake ads on classified websites, often claiming they are travelling and someone else will deliver the goods, but the item never arrives and the victim can no longer contact the seller.”

Interestingly, the most common category of shopping scam this year has been pets. Over 2,000 people have reportedly lost $2 million from scams involving the purchase of a new pooch, kitten, or parrot – more than double the losses from the next highest scammed category.

“Watch out for popular products being sold at prices much lower than on other websites and sellers requesting payment through direct bank transfer or cryptocurrency,” Rickard said.

“Take the time to consider who you are dealing with and don’t be pressured by special offers.

“Do your research by checking independent reviews of online stores or the seller’s history on classified websites.”

Scamwatch has seen a 60 per cent increase in scams arising from classified sites like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree as COVID-19 forced bargain hunters to online marketplaces.

The meteoric rise in home delivery has also seen Australia Post used as a vector for scammers trying to steal credit card details.

Australia Post has told customers its cut off for express parcels is December 19 for arrival by Christmas Day but the ACCC wants people to be careful when anxiously clicking on emails from the national postal service about deliveries.

“Australia Post will never ask you to click a link to enter your personal details, nor will they ask for credit card details or a fee to deliver your packages,” Rickard said.

“If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed to inform them of the circumstances.”

If you think you have seen a scam report it to Scamwatch.