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Protect Yourself from Scams

Common Types of Scams:

 

Threats & extortion

Scammers will use any means possible to steal your identity or your money – including threatening your life or ‘hijacking’ your computer.

Malware & ransomware

Details:

Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to ‘unlock’ your computer or files.

 

How this scam works:

Malware scammers send emails and social media messages at random with links purporting to be videos on something topical—news, an event or something 'interesting'.

If you click on the link you may be taken to a fake website that looks like the real deal, complete with logos and branding of legitimate sites. In order to view the video, you will be asked to install some software, such as a ‘codec’, to be able to access the video format. If you download the software, your computer will be infected with malware (malicious software).

Another way of delivering a malware scam is through websites and pop-ups that offer 'free' file downloads, including music, movies and games, or free access to content, such as adult sites.

Malware scams work by installing software on your computer that allows scammers to access your files or watch what you are doing on your computer. Scammers use this information to steal your personal details and commit fraudulent activities. They may make unauthorised purchases on your credit card, or use your identity to open accounts such as banking, telephone or energy services. They might take out loans or carry out other illegal business under your name, or even sell your information to other scammers for further illegal use.

 
Ransomware Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks or limits access to your computer or files, and demands a ransom be paid to the scammer for them to be unlocked.
Infected computers often display messages to convince you into paying the ransom. Scammers may pretend to be from the police and claim you have committed an illegal activity and must pay a fine, or they may simply demand payment for a 'key' to unlock your computer.
Even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee your computer will be unlocked.

 

Warning signs:

You receive an email or social media message out of the blue that claims to contain links to a video on a topical news item or something ‘interesting’, and you are asked to download software in order to view the video.
Music files, games, or access to adult sites are offered free of charge if you download a particular program or agree to a pop-up box.
Pop-up boxes start appearing on your computer screen. These may have simple questions or a button that says ‘close’.
You notice new icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is.
You are approached by scammers or become a victim of another scam where your personal or financial details are already known.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Check the organisation's name and look them up.

  • Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or social media messages you’ve received from strangers – just press delete.

  • If you want to access footage or information about major or breaking news, use a reliable news source rather than an unknown web link.

  • Be wary of free downloads and website access, such as music, games, movies and adult sites. They may install harmful programs without you knowing.

  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.

  • Use your security software to run a virus check if you think your computer’s security has been compromised. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.

  • Keep your office networks , computers, and mobile devices secure. Update your security software, change passwords and back up your data regularly. Store your backups offsite and offline.

 

Attempts to gain your personal information

Scammers use all kinds of sneaky approaches to steal your personal details. Once obtained, they can use your identity to commit fraudulent activities such as using your credit card or opening a bank account.

Identity theft

Details:

Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else's identity to steal money or gain other benefits.

 

How this scam works:

Phishing - the scammer tricks you into handing over your personal information.
Hacking - the scammer gains access to your information by exploiting security weaknesses on your computer, mobile device or network.
Remote access scams - the scammer tricks you into giving access to your computer and paying for a service you don't need.
Malware & ransomware - the scammer installs software on your computer that allows them to access your files or watch what you are doing on your computer.
Fake online profiles - the scammer sets up a fake profile on a social media or dating site and sends you a ‘friend’ or ‘connection’ request
Document theft - the scammer get access to your private information through unlocked mailboxes or discarded personal documents such as utility bills, insurance renewals or health care records.

 

Warning signs:

You receive an email, text or a phone call out of the blue asking you to ‘validate’ or ‘confirm’ your personal details by clicking on a link or opening an attachment. The message contains grammatical errors and is poorly written.
There are unexpected pop-ups on your computer or mobile device asking if you want to allow software to run.
You receive a friend request from someone you don’t know on social media.
You are unable to log into your social media or email account, or your profile has been logged into from an unusual location.
You notice that amounts of money go missing from your bank account without any explanation or an application for a loan or credit card has been declined.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Check the organisation's name and look them up.

  • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

  • Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.

  • Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Don't use the same password for every account, and don't share them with anyone.

  • Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

  • Put a lock on your mailbox and shred or destroy any documents containing personal information before disposing of them.

  • Have you been scammed?

  • If you think you have provided your account details, passport, tax file number, licence, Medicare or other personal identification details to a scammer, contact your bank, financial institution, or other relevant agencies immediately.

Phishing

Details:

Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.

 

How this scam works:

A scammer contacts you out of the blue pretending to be from a legitimate business such a bank, telephone or internet service provider. You may be contacted by email, social media, phone call, or text message.
Alternatively, the scammer may alert you to 'unauthorised or suspicious activity on your account'. You might be told that a large purchase has been made in a foreign country and asked if you authorised the payment. If you reply that you didn't, the scammer will ask you to confirm your credit card or bank details so the 'bank' can investigate. In some cases the scammer may already have your credit card number and ask you to confirm your identity by quoting the 3 or 4 digit security code printed on the card.

Phishing messages are designed to look genuine, and often copy the format used by the organisation the scammer is pretending to represent, including their branding and logo. They will take you to a fake website that looks like the real deal, but has a slightly different address. For example, if the legitimate site is 'www.realbank.com.au', the scammer may use an address like 'www.reallbank.com'.

If you provide the scammer with your details online or over the phone, they will use them to carry out fraudulent activities, such as using your credit cards and stealing your money.

 

Warning signs:

You receive an email, text or phone call claiming to be from a bank, telecommunications provider or other business you regularly deal with, asking you to update or verify your details.
The email or text message does not address you by your proper name, and may contain typing errors and grammatical mistakes.
The website address does not look like the address you usually use and is requesting details the legitimate site does not normally ask for.
You notice new icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Do not click on any links or open attachments from emails claiming to be from your bank or another trusted organisation and asking you to update or verify your details – just press delete.
    .

  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the email or message to check for any references to a scam – many scams can be identified this way.

  • Look for the secure symbol. Secure websites can be identified by the use of 'https:' rather than 'http:' at the start of the internet address, or a closed padlock or unbroken key icon at the bottom right corner of your browser window. Legitimate websites that ask you to enter confidential information are generally encrypted to protect your details.

  • Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Don't use the same password for every account, and don't share them with anyone.

  • Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

  • Never provide your personal, credit card or online account details if you receive a call claiming to be from your bank or any other organisation. Instead, ask for their name and contact number and make an independent check with the organisation in question before calling back.

  • Put a lock on your mailbox and shred or destroy any documents containing personal information before disposing of them.

  • Have you been scammed?

  • If you think you have provided your account details, passport, tax file number, licence, Medicare or other personal identification details to a scammer, contact your bank, financial institution, or other relevant agencies immediately.

Hacking

Details:

Hacking occurs when a scammer gains access to your personal information by using technology to break into your computer, mobile device or network.

 

How this scam works:

Ransomware & malware - the scammer tricks you into installing software that allows them to access your files and track what you are doing on your computer.
Exploiting security weaknesses – weaknesses can include reused and easily guessed passwords, out of date anti-virus software, and unsecured WiFi and Bluetooth connections.

Once scammers have hacked your computer or mobile device they can access your personal information, change your passwords, and restrict access to your system. They will use the information they obtain to commit fraudulent activities, such as identity theft or they could obtain direct access to your banking and credit card details.

 

Warning signs:

You are unable to log in to your computer or mobile device, or your email, social media and other online accounts.
You notice new icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is.
Files on your computer have been moved or deleted.
Pop-up boxes start appearing on your computer screen. These may offer to help 'fix' your computer, or a simply have a button that says ‘close’.
You have an unexpectedly large phone data or internet bill.
You notice that amounts of money go missing from your bank account without any explanation.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Do not click on any links or open attachments from emails claiming to be from your bank or another trusted organisation and asking you to update or verify your details – just press delete.

  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.

  • Use your security software to run a virus check if you think your computer’s security has been compromised. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.

  • Secure your networks and devices, and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access or provide personal information.

  • Choose passwords and PINs that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Do not save them to your phone or on your computer.

  • Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or social media messages you’ve received from strangers – just press delete.

  • Use your security software to run a virus check if you think your computer’s security has been compromised. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.

  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the email or message to check for any references to a scam – many scams can be identified this way.

  • Look for the secure symbol. Secure websites can be identified by the use of 'https:' rather than 'http:' at the start of the internet address, or a closed padlock or unbroken key icon at the bottom right corner of your browser window. Legitimate websites that ask you to enter confidential information are generally encrypted to protect your details.

  • Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Don't use the same password for every account, and don't share them with anyone.

  • Be wary of free downloads and website access, such as music, games, movies and adult sites. They may install harmful programs without you knowing.

  • Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

  • Have you been scammed?

  • If you think you have provided your account details, passport, tax file number, licence, Medicare or other personal identification details to a scammer, contact your bank, financial institution, or other relevant agencies immediately.

 

Unexpected money

Scammers invent convincing and seemingly legitimate reasons to give you false hope about offers of money. There are no get-rich-quick schemes, so always think twice before handing over your details or dollars.

Inheritance scams

Details:

These scams offer you the false promise of an inheritance to trick you into parting with your money or sharing your bank or credit card details.

 

How this scam works:

A scammer may contact you out of the blue to tell you that you can claim a large inheritance from a distant relative or wealthy benefactor. You may be contacted by letter, phone call, text message, email or social networking message.The scammer usually poses as a lawyer, banker or other foreign official, and claims that the deceased left no other beneficiaries.

Sometimes the scammer will say you are legally entitled to claim the inheritance. Alternatively, they might say that an unrelated wealthy person has died without a will, and that you can inherit their fortune through some legal trickery because you share the same last name.

You will be told that your supposed inheritance is difficult to access due to government and bank restrictions or taxes in the country where the money is held, and that you will need to pay money and provide personal details to claim it.

If you make a payment, you won’t receive the sum of 'inheritance' money promised to you, and you won't get your money back. You may also leave yourself open to identity theft.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
    Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.

  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam –
    many scams can be identified this way.

  • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Nigerian scams

Details:

Nigerian scams involve offering you a share in a large sum of money on the condition you help them to transfer it out of their country.

 

How this scam works:

The scammer will tell you an elaborate fake story about large amounts of money 'trapped' in central banks during civil wars or coups, often in countries currently in the news. Or they may tell you about a large inheritance that is 'difficult to access' because of government restrictions or taxes in their country.The scammer may contact you by email, letter, text message or social networking message. They will offer you a large sum of money to help them transfer their personal fortune out of their country.

These scams are often known as 'Nigerian 419' scams because the first wave of them came from Nigeria. The '419' part of the name comes from the section of Nigeria’s Criminal Code which outlaws the practice. These scams now come from anywhere in the world.Scammers may ask for your bank account details to 'help them transfer the money' and use this information to later steal your funds.

Or they may ask you to pay fees, charges or taxes to 'help release or transfer the money out of the country' through your bank. These fees may even start out as quite small amounts. If paid, the scammer may make up new fees that require payment before you can receive your reward. They will keep asking for more money as long as you are willing to part with it.

You will never be sent the money that was promised.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Do not agree to transfer money for someone else. Money laundering is a criminal offence.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
    Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • Seek independent advice from someone you know and trust if in doubt.

  • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
    Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.

  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam –
    many scams can be identified this way.

  • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Reclaim scams

Details:

Reclaim scams try to convince you that you are entitled to a rebate or reimbursement from the government, a bank or trusted organisation.

 

How this scam works:

The scammer approaches you with a false claim that you are entitled to a reimbursement or rebate, such as for overpaid taxes, bank fees or some sort of compensation. The contact may come by mail, telephone, email, text message or social media. They will pretend to be from the government, a bank or trusted organisation, and will ask you to make a small initial payment to cover 'administration fees' or taxes, in order to claim the amount owed to you.

If you hand over your money, you will lose it and not receive any rebate.

Warning Signs:

  • You receive a contact out of the blue that claims you are eligible to reclaim money.

    • The caller or sender pretends to be from a government department, financial institution or trusted organisation.

      • In order to receive your money, you are asked to pay an upfront fee to cover 'administration fees' or taxes.

        • The scammer will typically ask you to send the money via a money transfer service.

          • You may also be asked to provide personal or financial details.

          •  

            Protect yourself:

            • Do not agree to transfer money for someone else. Money laundering is a criminal offence.

            • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

            • Remember, government departments will never contact you asking you to pay money upfront in order to claim a fee or rebate.

            • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
              Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

            • Seek independent advice from someone you know and trust if in doubt.

            • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
              Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

            • Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.

            • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam –
              many scams can be identified this way.

            • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

            • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Up-front payment & advanced fee frauds

Details:

Up-front payment and advanced fee frauds ask you to send money up-front in order to later receive some sort of 'reward', such as a prize, discounted holiday, or pre-approved loan.

 

How this scam works:

Reclaim scams – the scammer claims that you are entitled to some sort of reimbursement or rebate, but have to pay a fee to receive it.
Inheritance scams – the scammer claims you have inherited a large sum of money but have to pay a fee to access it.
Unexpected prize and lottery scams – the scammer tells you that you have won a prize or a competition but you have to pay a fee to receive it.
Travel prize scams – the scammer offers you a free or discounted holiday on the condition that you buy 'travel vouchers' before booking.
Native language scams – the scammer targets households that speak languages other than English and makes phone calls in that language pretending to be a friend or relative asking for emergency financial aid. Similar scams also target English speakers.
Rental scams – the scammer advertises cheap rental properties online, asking you to pay a booking fee, but fails to deliver the service.
Promises of goods or profits from commodities such as gold, gemstones and oil – the scammer makes false promises of free goods or a share in the profitable business, but asks you to pay a fee in order to take part.

 
You receive an unsolicited email, letter, telephone call or visit from a 'salesperson' promising you something exciting or valuable for a small upfront payment or fee.

 


The scammer will ask you to pay a fee or provide your bank account details in order to gain access to the offer. If you send money you may find that you receive nothing in return, or that you don’t get what you were promised. If you provide your credit card or banking details, you may find that more than the requested fee was taken.

Warning Signs:

  • You receive a contact out of the blue that claims you are eligible to reclaim money.

    • The caller or sender pretends to be from a government department, financial institution or trusted organisation.

      • In order to receive your money, you are asked to pay an upfront fee to cover 'administration fees' or taxes.

        • The scammer will typically ask you to send the money via a money transfer service.

          • You may also be asked to provide personal or financial details.

          •  

            Protect yourself:

            • Do not agree to transfer money for someone else. Money laundering is a criminal offence.

            • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

            • Remember, government departments will never contact you asking you to pay money upfront in order to claim a fee or rebate.

            • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
              Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

            • Seek independent advice from someone you know and trust if in doubt.

            • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
              Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

            • Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.

            • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam –
              many scams can be identified this way.

            • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

            • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

 

Unexpected Winnings

Don’t be lured by a surprise win. These scams try to trick you into giving money upfront or your personal information in order to receive a prize from a lottery or competition that you never entered.

Unexpected prize & lottery scams

Details:

Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered.

 

How this scam works:

You will receive notification that you have won a lot of money or a fantastic prize in a competition, lottery or sweepstake that you don’t remember entering. The contact may come by mail, telephone, email, text message or social media.The prize you have ‘won’ could be anything from a tropical holiday to electronic equipment such as a laptop or a smartphone, or even money from an international lottery.To claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. The scammers make money by continually collecting these fees from you and stalling the payment of your winnings.

Alternatively the scammer will collect a premium rate on the phone number you are asked to dial (usually starting with 190). They will try to keep you on the line for a long time in order to clock up a hefty charge, and may even ask you to call a second premium rate number.The email, letter or text message you receive will ask you to respond quickly or risk missing out. It may also urge you to keep your winnings private or confidential, to ‘maintain security’ or stop other people from getting your prize by mistake. Scammers do this to prevent you from seeking further information or advice from independent sources.
Lottery scams may use the names of legitimate overseas lotteries (often Spanish lotteries), so that if you do some superficial research, the scam will seem real. Some examples of the real Spanish lotteries that the scammers falsely use are Loteria Primitiva and El Gordo.

 l

You may also be asked to provide personal details to prove that you are the correct winner and to give your bank account details so the prize can be sent to you. Scammers use these details to try to misuse your identity and steal any money you have in your bank account.Sometimes the scammers actually do send a cheque for part of your winnings, such as a few thousand dollars of winnings, to trick you into thinking the offer is legitimate. However this cheque will eventually bounce and you will not receive any real payments.
The scammer will take your payment and fail to deliver the prize, or send you something that falls short of the promised prize.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
    Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.

  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam –
    many scams can be identified this way.

  • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Travel prize scams

Details:

Travel prize scams are attempts to trick you into parting with your money to claim a ‘reward’ such as a free or discounted holiday.

 

How this scam works:

Travel prize scams often eventuate after you have been searching for a holiday online and sign up to receive further information. Shortly afterwards, you receive a notification by phone, text, email or post claiming that you have won a prize in the form of travel vouchers, often worth $2000 or $3000.Alternatively, you participate in an online survey and are subsequently notified that you have won a holiday or vouchers. When you go to claim your prize, you are told that you first need to buy more travel vouchers.
The scammer presents you with an amazing offer for a heavily discounted accommodation or holiday package to a popular destination, such as Thailand, Bali or the Pacific Islands. Other scams offer holidays to Florida or the Bahamas with tickets to theme parks or cruises at greatly discounted rates. However, in reality the package or the prize doesn’t exist.If you decide to take up this offer, you will be asked to provide your credit card and licence details before they can send you the ‘prize’. If you hand over your personal details, the scammer will quickly use these to take money from your bank account. They may also use your personal details to commit some other form of identity crime.

 l

The amazing offer comes shortly after you have completed an online survey or signed up for further information.
The supplier making the offer does not provide any contact details beyond an email or Post Office box.
Scammers may claim to be affiliated with well-known and reputable businesses to try and convince you that they’re the real deal.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.

  • If you are considering buying a holiday package through a third party, find out if the offer is the real deal.

  • Call the holiday accommodation provider directly to verify the deal using contact details sourced independently.

  • Research the ‘business’ that you’re dealing with. Search online for reviews.

  • Book through an accredited agent to make sure you get legitimate accommodation.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-
    Front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • If booking online, choose secure payment methods. If you pay with a credit card, you may be able to seek a chargeback if you don’t get what you pay for.

  • Be cautious about the requested method of payment: different means of payment offer different protections. Be wary of requests for cheques, bank or wire transfers when booking travel.

  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam –
    many scams can be identified this way.

  • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

 

Fake charities

Scammers impersonate genuine charities and ask for donations or contact you claiming to collect money for relief efforts after natural disasters.

Fake charities

Details:

Scammers impersonate genuine charities and ask for donations or contact you claiming to collect money for relief efforts after natural disasters.

 

How this scam works:

Fake charity approaches occur all year round and often take the form of a response to real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes and bushfires. Scammers will pose as either agents of legitimate well-known charities or create their own charity name. This can include charities that conduct medical research or support disease sufferers and their families. Scammers may also play on your emotions by claiming to help children who are ill.
Fake charities operate in a number of different ways. You may be approached on the street or at your front door by people collecting money. Scammers may also set up fake websites which look similar to those operated by real charities. Some scammers will call or email you requesting a donation.

 

Warning Signs:

You've never heard of the charity before, or it is well-known but you suspect the website, email or letter may be fake. A fake website may look almost identical to a legitimate charity site, changing only the details of where to send donations.
The person collecting donations on behalf of the charity does not have any identification. Remember, even if they do have identification, it could be forged or meaningless.
You are put under pressure or made to feel guilty or selfish if you don’t want to donate.
You are asked to provide a cash donation as they don't accept cheques. Or, they want the cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity.
You are not given a receipt. Or, they give you a receipt that does not have the charity’s details on it.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Check the organisation's name and look them up.

  • Approach charity organisations directly to make a donation or offer support.

  • Don't open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam) – delete them. If you click on a link or open an attachment, you may install a harmful program without knowing it.

  • Legitimate charities are registered – you check an organisation’s credentials on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) website to see if they are a genuine charity.

  • Never send money or give personal information, credit card details or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.

  • If you are approached by a street collector, ask to see their identification. If you have any doubts about who they are, do not pay.

  • If you are approached in person, ask the collector for details about the charity such as its full name, address and how the proceeds will be used. If they become defensive and cannot answer your questions, close the door or hang up.

  • If you think it’s a scam, don't respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on your emotions to get what they want.

  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

 

Dating & romance

Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.

Dating & romance

Details:

Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.

 

How this scam works:

Dating and romance scams often take place through online dating websites, but scammers may also use social media or email to make contact. They have even been known to telephone their victims as a first introduction. These scams are also known as ‘catfishing’.
Dating and romance scammers will express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time, and will suggest you move the relationship away from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging. They often claim to be from Australia or another western country, but travelling or working overseas.

Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as showering you with loving words, sharing ‘personal information’ and even sending you gifts. They may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come.

Once they have gained your trust and your defences are down, they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. They may also ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, possibly of an intimate nature.

Often the scammer will pretend to need the money for some sort of personal emergency. For example, they may claim to have a severely ill family member who requires immediate medical attention such as an expensive operation, or they may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck such as a failed business or mugging in the street. The scammer may also claim they want to travel to visit you, but cannot afford it unless you are able to lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses.

Sometimes the scammer will send you valuable items such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and ask you to resend them somewhere. They will invent some reason why they need you to send the goods but this is just a way for them to cover up their criminal activity. Alternatively they may ask you to buy the goods yourself and send them somewhere. You might even be asked to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it to someone else.
Sometimes the scammer will tell you about a large amount of money or gold they need to transfer out of their country, and offer you a share of it. They will tell you they need your money to cover administrative fees or taxes.Dating and romance scammers can also pose a risk to your personal safety as they are often part of international criminal networks. Scammers may attempt to lure their victims overseas, putting you in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences.
Regardless of how you are scammed, you could end up losing a lot of money. Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year. The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and, in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone you thought loved you.

 

Warning signs:

You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately. If you met on an dating site they will try and move you away from the site and communicate via chat or email.
Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. For example, their profile picture looks different to their description of themselves, or they say they are university educated but their English is poor.
After gaining your trust – often waiting weeks, months or even years – they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
Their messages are often poorly written, vague and may even address you by the wrong name.
If you don’t send money straight away, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you do send money, they continue to ask you to send more.
They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can't travel to meet you and why they always need more money.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Check the organisation's name and look them up.

  • Always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs listed above appear. Try to remove the emotion from your decision making no matter how caring or persistent the ‘prospective partner’ is.

  • Do an image search of your admirer to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google (link is external) or TinEye (link is external)

  • Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to Skype each other.

  • Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.

  • If you agree to meet a prospective partner in person, tell family and friends where you are going. Scamwatch strongly recommends you do not travel overseas to meet someone you have never met before. Consider carefully the advice on www.smarttraveller.gov.au (link is external) before making any plans.

  • Be wary of requests for money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • Do not agree to transfer money for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

  • Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

 

Buying or selling

Scammers prey on consumers and businesses that are buying or selling products and services. Not every transaction is legitimate.

Overpayment scams

Details:

Overpayment scams work by getting you to ‘refund’ a scammer who has sent you a cheque for too much money for an item you are selling.

 

How this scam works:

If you are selling something online or through classifieds ads, you may be targeted by a cheque overpayment scam.The scammer will contact you, make you an offer—often quite generous—then send you a cheque as payment. The cheque will be for an amount that is greater than the agreed price.
Before the cheque has been cleared by your bank the scammer will contact you with an apology for the overpayment, offering a fake excuse. The scammer might tell you that the extra money was included to cover agent's fees or extra shipping costs. Or they may just say they simply made a mistake when writing the cheque.
The scammer will then ask you to refund the excess amount—usually through an online banking transfer, pre-loaded money card, or a wire transfer such as Western Union—before you discover that their cheque has bounced.

If you send any money, you will not get it back. If you have already sent the 'sold' item you will lose this as well. At the very least, the scammer will have wasted your time and prevented you from accepting any legitimate offers on your sale.

Somebody makes an offer to buy something you have for sale and pays you more than the agreed price with a cheque.
You are asked to refund the overpaid amount to a specific bank account or through a wire transfer.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

  • If you have been sent a cheque for more money than the agreed price, send it back and ask for another cheque with the correct amount. Do not agree to repay the difference until you are certain that the cheque has cleared.

  • Do not send the items to the buyer until the cheque has cleared in your bank account.

  • For items of high value, do not allow potential buyers to inspect the goods without someone else being there.

Remote access scams

Details:

Remote access scams try to convince you that you have a computer or internet problem and that you need to buy new software to fix the problem.

 

How this scam works:

The scammer will phone you and pretend to be a staff member from a large telecommunications or computer company, such as Telstra, the NBN or Microsoft. Alternatively they may claim to be from a technical support service provider. They will tell you that your computer has been sending error messages or that it has a virus. They may mention problems with your internet connection or your phone line and say this has affected your computer's recent performance. They may claim that your broadband connection has been hacked.
The caller will request remote access to your computer to ‘find out what the problem is’.
The scammer may try to talk you into buying unnecessary software or a service to ‘fix’ the computer, or they may ask you for your personal details and your bank or credit card details.

The scammer may initially sound professional and knowledgeable—however they will be very persistent and may become abusive if you don't do what they ask.
You don't have to be a Telstra or Microsoft customer to be called by these scammers. You don’t even have to own a computer

Somebody makes an offer to buy something you have for sale and pays you more than the agreed price with a cheque.
You are asked to refund the overpaid amount to a specific bank account or through a wire transfer.

You receive a phone call out of the blue and the caller claims to be from a large telecommunications or computer company, or a technical support service provider.
They tell you that your computer is experiencing technical problems and they need remote access to sort out the problem.
They ask you to buy software or sign up to a service to fix the computer.
They ask for your personal details and your bank or credit card details.
The caller is very persistent and may become abusive.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.

  • Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.

  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and remote access is requested – hang up – even if they mention a well-known company such as Telstra. Telstra does not request credit card details over the phone to fix computer or telephone problems, and is not affiliated with any companies that do.

  • Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have listed your number on the Australian Government's Do Not Call Register (link is external). Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently.

  • Make sure your computer is protected with regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Research first and only purchase software from a source that you know and trust.

  • If you have fallen victim to a scam or you receive a lot of unsolicited emails and phone calls consider changing your email address and phone numbers.

Home Types of scams Buying or selling Listen Online shopping scams

Details:

Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.

 

How this scam works:

While many online sellers are legitimate, unfortunately scammers can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off unsuspecting shoppers.

Fake retailer websites
Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even a ‘.com.au’ domain name and stolen Australian Business Number (ABN).The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, but if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item.

Online auction sites- Most online auction sites (e.g. Ebay) have strict policies to ensure their customers are not scammed. Scammers know this, so they will often try to get people to make a deal outside the auction site. Scammers may claim that the winner of an auction you were bidding in has pulled out, and offer the item for sale to you. Once they have your money, you will never hear from them again and the auction site will not be able to help you.

Online classified websites- Online classified websites promote the sale of goods and services, but allow sellers and potential buyers to negotiate on a price outside of the website.
Scammers may pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads for anything, such as rental properties, pets, used cars, boats, bikes, caravans and horses. The scammers may advertise items at a price much lower than comparable items advertised on the same site. These are known as classified scams.
Scammers may also pose as buyers, send you a cheque for more than the required payment on an item, and then ask you to refund the difference. These are known as overpayment scams.

Warning signs

A product is advertised at an unbelievably low price, or advertised to have amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true.
The other party insists on immediate payment, or payment by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. They may insist that you pay up-front for vouchers before you can access a cheap deal or a give-away.
An online auction seller and any initial bidders have a very poor rating, or the seller wants to complete the sale outside of the auction website. If you do this, you lose any protection offered by the website operator.
An online retailer does not provide adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution or contact details. The seller may be based overseas, or the seller does not allow payment through a secure payment service such as PayPal or a credit card transaction.

 

Protect yourself:

  • Check if the website or online auction site has a refund or returns policy, and that their policies sound fair. The better online shopping and auction sites have detailed complaint or dispute handling processes in case something goes wrong.

  • When using retail websites, find out exactly who you are dealing with. If it is an Australian company, you are in a much better position to sort out the problem if something goes wrong.

  • When making online payments, only pay for items using a secure payment service—look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol, or a payment provider such as PayPal. Think twice before using virtual currencies such as bitcoin—they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods so you can’t get your money back once you send it.

  • When buying from an online classifieds website, only pay when you have physically inspected or received the goods. If you have any doubts about the product or the person selling it, don’t go ahead with the deal.

  • When using online auction websites, check all comments about the seller you are considering buying from. Never trade outside of the auction website.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way. Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.

  • If you are buying from an online auction you may want to use an ‘escrow’ service. Escrow services collect your payment, then release payment to the trader or seller only when you have confirmed that the product has arrived and is what you paid for. There is usually a small fee for this service. Only use a reputable escrow service—online auction sites may provide a list of recommended providers.

 

Jobs & investment

If you are looking for a fast way to make money, watch out – scammers have invented all sorts of fake money-making opportunities to prey on your enthusiasm and get hold of your cash.

Betting & sports investment schemes

Betting & sports investment schemes

Betting and sports investment scams try to convince you to invest in 'foolproof' systems and software that can 'guarantee' you a profit on sporting events.

Investment schemes

Betting & sports investment schemes

Investment schemes involve getting you or your business to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.

You receive an email from a stranger offering advice on the share price of a particular company. It may not be addressed to you personally, and may even give the impression it was sent to you by mistake.

Jobs & employment

Jobs & employment

Jobs and employment scams trick you into handing over your money by offering you a ‘guaranteed’ way to make fast money or a high-paying job for little effort.
The scammer contacts you by email, letter or phone and offers you a job that requires very little effort for high returns, or a guaranteed way to make money quickly
If you provide your account details the scammer may use them to steal your money or commit other fraudulent activities.