White van scammers: Conmen impersonating audio-visual retailers

Scammers in white vans are targeting Melbourne consumers, offering cheap goods such as home theatre systems and stereo equipment, conning people into purchasing fake products.

The ruse tricks people and businesses into thinking they’re purchasing reputable electronics for a bargain price.

The goods are being sold from the back of a van, but the conmen have established an official-looking website, fake invoices and uniforms for the con artists.

They’ve also placed courier signs on their vehicles in an attempt to give their scheme an air of legitimacy.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is warning consumers about the scam, which has been reported across Melbourne.

The products on offer are placed in boxes with familiar-sounding brand names; however, Consumer Affairs Victoria warns on closer inspection it will be a spelling variation of a well-known brand.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has received a number of complaints about the scam, including from one consumer who was approached twice on a single trip to the Essendon shopping centre.

The scam is just one of many in recent days where con artists adopt the appearance of a legitimate-looking business.

Last month SmartCompany reported on a Queensland business Strongguard Roofing which had its business identity stolen by conmen who would trick Victorian homeowners into paying them for subpar home repair services.

The men would target people at their homes and pressure the consumers to pay up front for their services and then perform shoddy work or not finish the job.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Michael Schaper previously told SmartCompany the first warning sign is an unsolicited approach from a business.

“The first thing you want to ask is where they come from and how they have the contact details,” he said.

“The second is the pitch for money or information. They’ll often say you can validate them independently by going to a URL they provide, but you should do your own searches.”

Schaper suggests looking for the business in the phone book and personally searching for the company online, rather than trusting the link provided by the possible conmen.

Consumer Affairs Victoria says it’s important not to be tempted by “unexpectedly cheap deals” and to only buy from established retailers.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” it said.

“Be very suspicious of anyone conducting business from the back of a van, or by the side of a road. If you decide to buy something from a white van scammer, you may not get a receipt – and if you do, any contact details provided could be false, making it impossible for you to get a refund or repair if something goes wrong.”

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