Coles, Woolies, JB Hi-Fi: Big brands forged in online gift card scams

The ACCC's Scamwatch has received 1175 complaints this year about fake surveys and online posts offering gift cards.
The ACCC's Scamwatch has received 1175 complaints this year about fake surveys and online posts offering gift cards. 

 

Consumers have been warned to think twice before entering competitions or signing up to surveys promising gift card prizes from retailers such as Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings and JB Hi-Fi.

Social media and online advertising have created a lucrative home for scammers, who have netted about $2600 from consumers this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

An example of a voucher seeking personal details from the consumer.
An example of a voucher seeking personal details from the consumer. 

"These losses are the tip of the iceberg, as the scammer's target is your personal information to help them scam you again in the future," said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

The ACCC's Scamwatch has received 1175 complaints this year, regarding fake surveys, emails and social media posts that have misused the brand name and logo of large Australian retailers.

"Scammers use fake gift card promotions to trick consumers into handing over their personal information such as banking details or passwords, which are later used to steal your money or your identity, or to on-sell to other scammers," Ms Rickard said.

In one case, while making travel bookings online, a consumer encountered a pop-up message informing them they were in the running for a Coles gift voucher.

"[I] entered my mobile. Received an SMS to answer questions, did not realise these could be charged. Total on my bill is $181. As soon as I caught on I unsubscribed."

Another report to the ACCC Scamwatch described a consumer who received an email offering the chance to win a $500 supermarket gift card, an image of which was "all in Woolworths colours".

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In order to win the card the consumer had to take part in a quiz and ring a phone number to retrieve an entry code.

"Didn't win the gift card and the call cost us $118. We didn't know the cost of the call was expensive and it wasn't until today when we got the phone bill did we cotton on to what had happened. Very disappointed," the consumer said.

The ACCC's Scamwatch also received complaints from consumers who had encountered apparent scams, but avoided any loss, including one consumer who was searching online to find the store opening times of Woolworths stores.

About $2600 has been lost by consumers through gift card scams this year.
About $2600 has been lost by consumers through gift card scams this year. Photo: ACCC

At that point a pop-up appeared and the consumer was offered the chance to win a voucher, by entering her name and phone number. The consumer reported the incident after she began receiving a number of unsolicited emails.

Many legitimate online offers ask consumers to complete a survey or pass on an offer to others before claiming a voucher.

However the ACCC warns consumers to be wary of any webpages which follow, asking for a phone number, address or bank account details, which could be used to commit identity theft and other fraud.

"Scammers use fake gift card promotions to trick consumers into handing over their personal information:" ACCC Deputy ...
"Scammers use fake gift card promotions to trick consumers into handing over their personal information:" ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard. 

Consumers in scam situations may receive a fake gift voucher or alternatively nothing at all.

Ms Rickard said consumers should attempt to verify offers before handing over important details.

"Protect your personal information by verifying whether an offer is legitimate by checking if it is listed on the retailers' official website or by calling the retailers' official customer service line."

Many brands have been prompted to respond to the misappropriation of their logos in online scams.Bunnings issued a warning about any offers asking consumers to fill out a survey, share, comment and like a Facebook page, or call a specified number and provide personal information.

"Bunnings is in no way associated with any of the above activities and do not use social media for any offers or promotions. Bunnings will also never ask for personal or banking details in unsolicited communications."

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