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It’s time for Aussie businesses to fight back and help consumers to avoid being scammed

  • Written by Tess Sanders Lazarus

Fotios Tsiouklas and Alan Gokoglu

Scam websites, fake online stores, and phishing emails and text messages are popping up all over the internet as vulnerable Australian’s continue to self isolate.

“Scammers have really ramped up their activity during COVID-19, and sadly many people are spending their money on products that never arrive and the vendors can never be contacted,” Fotios Tsiouklas said.

Fotios Tsiouklas and Alan Gokoglu are two of Australia’s most successful teenage entrepreneurs. Fotios is 19 and Alan is 18. Together they have developed over 100 mobile applications and built several fast growing businesses including digital agency Kickspan, which works with some of the country’s leading brands and businesses helping them to grow their presence and sales in the online market space. In their online ventures, both have learnt the true extent to which scammers are terrorising consumers.

“The number of online scams is rising at an exponential rate and they are successfully preying on thousands of Australian consumers. The stories we have heard are honestly heart breaking – from toy sales being too-good-to-be-true and little ones without a gift on their special days, to entire superannuation accounts being drained after decades of hard work,” Mr Tsiouklas said.

“It is time for Aussie businesses to step up. We are calling for all businesses to fight back and help Aussie consumers to avoid being scammed.

“Australian businesses need to play a part in this. Not only are they losing sales when consumers buy from scam websites, they can help consumers to ensure they purchase from valid Australian businesses by taking proactive action to showcase the validity and professionalism of their own operations online.”

Tsiouklas and Gokoglu have identified eight ways businesses can support consumers making safe purchases online.

Show the market you have a website

“Shoppers have taken to online shopping like fish to water. After years of reservations, many consumers jumped on the online shopping bandwagon when lockdown measures were in place,” Mr Gokoglu said.

“Incorporating basics, such as opening hours, directions, product descriptions, your social media channels and contact details, onto your website will communicate your business’s legitimacy. Most importantly, ensure all information on your site is current and relevant so that consumers know you care about your products and them as customers.”

Include contact information

“Every credible business needs valid contact details. Whether your business has a physical store or you work remotely, nothing makes a business feel more questionable than getting a personal voicemail when you call a business number,” Mr Gokoglu added.

“From a convenience perspective I get it, it may seem like a good idea to have your personal and professional correspondence in one place. However, instilling trust and authority with potential customers can be as simple as creating a custom business email address and phone number.”

Incorporate a variety of payment methods

“It is no secret that shoppers feel most safe making purchases online when they are able to pay using a platform they trust. To help Aussie consumers navigate the risks of online shopping, engage a range a payment methods,” Mr Tsiouklas said.

“Companies such as PayPal and Apple Pay are widely trusted by consumers on an international scale – enabling a frictionless checkout experience. Incorporating a range of payment options will standardise the checkout experience for consumers and eradicate fears of fraudulence.”

Record real reviews

“As fears surrounding scams in the online retail space increase, reviews have become not only important – they are essential. Reviews are a key tool for initiating credibility and confidence with your customers,” Mr Tsiouklas said.

“Reviews can range from online product ratings to social media comments – essentially they are social proof. Ensure your reviews sit on your own site as well as external sites. Monitor them and respond to them to show people you care about your brand and you are actively alert to customers.”

Share information about your key people

“Don’t be afraid to let your customers to get to know you as business owners. In our experience, we have always shared information about ourselves with our customers so that they can connect friendly and professional faces with our brands,” Mr Gokoglu said.

“Consider creating an ‘Our Team’ page on your website or sharing photos of your team on your social media pages. A simple headshot with a brief outline of your professional experience will go a long way in forming trust with shoppers.”

Update your social media sites

“It is important that when you are deciding which social media channels to sign your business up onto to consider the ones that you realistically can regularly update. For instance, there is no point creating a Twitter account for your business if you tweet once a year,” Mr Gokoglu added.

“We recommend updating your social media sites daily. Include links from your website to your social media channels and vice versa. Fashioning a consistent brand look and feel that reflects on your social media channels and website will increase the creditability of your business.

“Get your sites verified with a ‘tick’. This provides shoppers with confidence and assures them you are safe and credible.”

Invest in some media publicity

“Demonstrating that you are a valid business that is known across the community is a priceless investment for any business, Mr Tsiouklas said.

“Nothing says ‘trust’ better than a good article written about you by a third party, ie, journalist with a profile from a large media outlet.”

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