Many of us believe we would never fall for a scam and think we’d know what to look for and how to recognise one. But every year in Australia, millions of dollars are lost and personal information shared with scammers.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch received more than 177, 000 reports of scams in 2018 and more than $107 million was reported lost.
This Scams Awareness Week, we’re encouraging consumers to do their research and know how to protect themselves from a scam.
What to look for
Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and are taking advantage of new technology to target people.
It’s easier to spot a scam if you know what to look for. Always be careful if:
- someone you don’t know contacts you out of the blue
- you’re asked to pay for something in an unusual way, like gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrencies
- someone you’ve never met in person asks you for money
- something sounds too good to be true – like an online shopping deal, or you have unclaimed inheritance or are invited to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme
- you’re asked for your personal information like bank details or passwords to access your computer
- someone pressures you into buying something or making a decision quickly.
Tips to protect yourself
- If you’ve been contacted by someone out of the blue, even if they claim to be from the government or a trusted business, always consider that it may be a scam.
- If a caller threatens you, hang up and check whether their story is real. Don’t respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages either – if you call them back, the scammers may increase their intimidation and attempts to get your money.
- Don’t send money or give bank or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust.
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as with gift cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin.
- Don’t open anything that looks suspicious including text messages, pop-up windows, links or attachments in emails.
- Keep your personal information secure
- put a lock on your mailbox
- shred important documents before throwing them out
- use strong passwords online
- update your security software
- protect your Wi-Fi network with a password.
If you’ve lost money or given personal information to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss.
- If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact your financial institution immediately. They might be able to stop or reverse a transaction or close your account.
- If you’ve given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE (www.idcare.org), Australia and New Zealand’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service. IDCARE can work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process.
- If the scam occurred on social media, report it to the social media platform.
As scammers are often based overseas, it’s extremely difficult for government agencies to track them down or for law enforcement to take action against them.
Take the time to warn your friends and family about these scams.
For more information about scams, where to get help if you’ve been scammed or to report a scam, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au
Scams Awareness Week is an initiative of the Scams Awareness Network, a group of Australian and New Zealand government agencies with responsibility for consumer protection and policing in scams, cyber safety and fraud.