Unfortunately we are hearing more and more of how people have been caught up in some form of a scam.
Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Be alert and protect yourself from being scammed by following some of the tips below.
Scams target everyone
Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. There’s no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time.
Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. Scammers are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal details.
Be alert to the fact that scams exist
When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it’s over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Know who you’re dealing with
If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them. If a message or email comes from a friend and it seems unusual or out of character for them, contact your friend directly to check that it was really them that sent it.
Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – delete them!
If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don’t use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access – hang up!
Even if they mention a well-known company such as Telstra. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus which will give them your passwords and personal details.
Keep your personal details secure
Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
Keep your mobile devices and computers secure
Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
Choose your passwords carefully
Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
Review your privacy and security settings on social media
If you use social networking sites, such as Facebook, be careful who you connect with and learn how to use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe. If you recognise suspicious behaviour, clicked on spam or have been scammed online, take steps to secure your account and be sure to report it.
Beware of any requests for your details or money
Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.
Be wary of unusual payment requests
Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
Be careful when shopping online
Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Think twice before using virtual currencies (like Bitcoin) – they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods, which means you can’t get your money back once you send it. Learn more about online shopping scams.
Follow up scams
Scammers will often try to take advantage when you’re feeling vulnerable and try to extract more money from you through a follow up scam.
Some common follow up scams include:
- offers from a law enforcement agency to investigate your scam and retrieve your money for a fee. Law enforcement agencies do not charge for their services
- a doctor calling you to alert you that the scammer urgently needs medical bills to be paid or they might die
- a woman contacting you to explain she is the scammer’s wife and wants to escape him but needs money to do so.
These are only a few of the follow up approaches scammers may use try to get more money from you. New approaches could be quite different from the original scam and could come quickly or some time later. Scammers may have passed your details to other scammers who use entirely different methods and the new approach may seem totally unrelated to the original scam.
More information & where to get help
If you’ve lost money to a scam or given out your personal details to scammers, you’re unlikely to get your money back. However there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from future loss.
- If you have been threatened, assaulted or had your property stolen, contact your local police immediately.
- If you think your bank account details have been compromised, alert your bank or financial institution immediately.
- If the scammer first made contact through a website, social media, by email or phone, contact the relevant company with the scammer’s details. Your report will help them take action to disrupt scams.
The scamwatch website is a great resource for finding out further information and where to seek help if you find yourself in this situation.
Source: ACCC – SCAMWATCH