AT least two Ballarat businesses have fallen victim to cruel scammers who are taking advantage of unsuspecting residents who believed they had won competitions.
Both Laser Cut Fire Pits in Bunkers Hill and Avalon Nursery in Haddon have been victims of a social media scam where customers are contacted saying they have won a price and being asked to provide full details, including credit card numbers so the 'prize' can be sent out.
Both businesses are currently running Father's Day competitions, with the scammers opening up a series of social media accounts and copying the competition details, telling followers they have won and requesting $25 for postage from each 'winner'.
IN OTHER NEWS
Kelly Dubberley from Laser Cut Fire Pits said since their competition was launched, at least six fake sites had been set up.
"They've always got something wrong with them, for example there's an apostrophe in the wrong spot, or they've spelled something wrong.
"I reckon I've had about 300 messages from people in the past couple of weeks, but fortunately all of our customers have been really good about it.
"We're giving away a $480 fire pit, but what we'll also do now is give away 10, $100 vouchers to say thanks to the people who are loyal to us.
"We just wanted to do something to bring some joy to the community given everything that we've been through, but people just feel they need to take advantage of it."
David Winters from Avalon Nursery said since launching their own competition this week, he had received almost 200 messages from people believing they had won.
He said it was critical that people understood the company would never ask for credit card details online.
"The prize is due to be drawn on the 28th. If anyone gets a message from them, do not click on the link and do report the profile. We would never ask for your credit card details," he said.
"It's really disappointing that people are taking advantage of others at this type of time."
Mr Winters said he had reported the scam to police.
It comes as Australia prepares for 'Scam Awareness Week" from August 17-21. Throughout the week, police and governments around the country will be highlighting the different types of scams that occur in the community.
Last year alone, Australians were scammed of $15.8 million.
Ballarat Inspector Dan Davison said as more people were connected online, scammers were becoming more covert.
"It's really important because these scammers are so good at duplicating sites, that you don't provide your credit card details, unless it's something you are a willing participant to," Inspector Davison said.
"If you think you're the victim of a scam contact your bank in the first instance and try and work out the magnitude of the loss.
"Quite often scammers will look at small amounts which won't necessarily flag with security. Most people will skim over and miss small transactions, so they are quite deliberate in their intentions."
If you are a victim of a scam, report it as scamwatch.gov.au or ring Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.