Australians lost an estimated $323 million to online scams in 2021, and on Monday Westpac announced that merchants being blocked are exclusively registered overseas.

They most commonly sell diet pills, nutrient supplements, online dating subscriptions, music subscriptions or business support services.

The scam block works for customers using their Westpac credit or debit card to make purchases, including via third party mobile wallet providers.

The lender said if a customer believes the payment is legitimate, they can contact Westpac’s scam assistance team to request the payment proceeds.

However according to Westpac, in more than 99% of cases in trials last year, customers did not proceed with the transaction after getting the scam alert.

It's estimated the blockers have stopped 69,000 customers losing more than $6 million, with an average saving of $87.

Chris de Bruin, Westpac Chief Executive Consumer & Business Banking, said online shopping scams are on the rise and more overseas retailers are targeting Australians with false advertising.

“With our research showing these scams are costing Australians hundreds of millions each year, we’re ramping-up our investment in technologies which will help detect scams and prevent customers getting swindled," he said.

“Through expanding this to more merchants, our modelling predicts we will stop an additional 2,000 customers each day losing an estimated $120 million annually to dodgy overseas retailers."

Westpac tips for online shopping

  • Check where a merchant is based and be sure to read the fine print regarding any ongoing billing commitments after the initial purchase.
  • Be wary of free trials and diarise follow ups / service cancellations to prevent ongoing unwanted billing.
  • Westpac customers may access a digital card through their mobile banking app which provides extra security when shopping online through a dynamic 3-digit CVC code that changes every 24 hours.
  • If a card is lost or stolen, customers may apply an instant block through Westpac’s online and mobile banking to prevent any unauthorised purchases and have a new card issued.

Image by Muhammad Zaqy Al Fattah via unsplash