Surge in machinery scams as crims target farmers
WA farmers have been fleeced of more than $142,000 since the start of the year as a result of skyrocketing online machinery scams.
Consumer Protection says nine WA farmers have been caught in the web of elaborate scam websites in the first four months of this year, almost matching the total of fake sales reported for all of 2019.
Tractor sales made up most of the scams, with bogus machinery websites often listing non-existent addresses and featuring photos lifted from other legitimate advertisements. While online scams are common, authorities say this is the first time they have seen a surge in those featuring farm equipment.
WA Scam Net co-ordinator Paul Cvejic said it was important people did not allow themselves to be sucked in by what appeared to be a bargain deal.
“One of the main things we like to warn people is: if it is too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.
“Farm machinery that is well below market price, with pictures that are a little bit too pristine for that price, they are pretty big red flags.
“The main thing is if you are not sure, and if something in the process raises doubts, that is the main time to start fact-checking and doing your own independent research into it.”
Mr Cvejic said when buying online, it was important to do as many checks as possible to ensure the business was legitimate.
“Look at the contact information on the website, check if they list any business information,” he said.
“If they list an address for where the machinery is, put it into Google Maps and see if that business exists. It is all about checking the facts that are on the website.
“Look for spelling mistakes, poorly edited images. We also recommend doing reverse-image searches on the images used.
“You will usually find that machinery advertised on other websites for a considerably more expensive price, or those images on the website of the company that manufactures it, and you can see they have just stolen the image.”
Mr Cvejic said offers for payment to be done through a third party were also red flags.
“They will ask for the money to be bank-transferred; you have very little chance of being able to pull those funds back,” he said. “You should be looking at paying by a cheque, credit card or PayPal, so that if something does go wrong, you can reverse the transaction.”
Mr Cvejic said authorities were working hard to shut down the scams but they needed the public to stay vigilant and do their best to avoid becoming victims.
“We are finding a bunch of them linked and are doing our best to get them shut down, but some are still out there,” he said.
“We would love to stop them, but educating people is the next best thing. If we make the scams unsubstantial, they will stop.”
Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website, where scam reports can be lodged. Inquiries can be made by calling 1300 304 054.
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