How to protect yourself from scams

In 2018, SCAMWATCH received 177 516 reports of scams. All up, Australians lost over $100 million in scams, an increase of 15% on the year before. Here are some tips on protecting yourself and your family from dodgy schemes – online and off.

Scammers do not discriminate

There is no age group immune from being scammed, although the 45+ age group reports losing the most money from being scammed. The most common ways to get scammed are over the phone, by email, over the internet or on a social media platform. Men tend to lose more money through a scam, but women are more likely to report a scam attempt.

Types of scams

Scammers look for opportunity and vulnerability, which is why investment and dating and romance scams netted $63 million in 2018, more than half of the total amount scammed.

  • Identity theft: scammers steal your personal information and then use your stolen identity to commit fraud.
  • Dating and romance: scammers take advantage of people looking for love, usually via dating websites, apps or social media.
  • Investment: investment scams usually come to you through a phone call, email or social media. They offer high returns, low to no risk, or an insider tip, and may have slick websites and documents to back up their claims.
  • Fake charities: scammers impersonate genuine charities and ask for donations. They are especially active after natural disasters and major events.
  • Online shopping scams: scammers pose as legitimate online sellers, often selling luxury goods at very low prices.

How to protect yourself from scams

1. Educate yourself

Visit SCAMWATCH and learn about scams, how they work, and who they target. Sign up for their email alerts on the latest scams. If you’re looking to invest, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) deals with scams involving investments, superannuation, financial advice and insurance.

2. Know a scam when you see one

Ignore out of the blue approaches and offers that sound too good to be true.

3. Secure your personal details

Don’t give out your passwords, bank details or personal information. Shred sensitive documents and lock your letterbox.

4. Smart online shopping

Beware very low prices, brand new social media stores selling very cheap items, and little or no information on privacy, terms and conditions and product reviews.

QBANK tip: The payment method is the biggest tip of all that you might be dealing with a scammer. Scammers want you to pay by untraceable means including money order, pre-loaded money cards, wire transfer or bitcoin.

5. Protect your credit card

Don’t save your password, always keep your credit card with you, and use a complicated PIN (not your birthday).

6. Be careful where you click

Scammers are getting more sophisticated and can even send emails that seem to come from someone you know. Think before you click on any email link or attachment if you don’t know who it’s from or what it is. Better safe than sorry!

What to do if you’ve been scammed

Being scammed can be devastating. If you have been scammed, you’re not the only one and there are people to help.

Act fast! ASIC recommends you:

  • Delete and block all contact from the scammer.
  • Call your bank (or the business the scam is pretending to represent) to report the scam.
  • Check your bank account for any suspicious transactions.
  • Ask the bank or company to freeze your accounts if the scammer has accessed any money.
  • Scan your computer for viruses.
  • File a police report if the scammer has accessed any money.
  • Report all scams to SCAMWATCH.
  • Get a free copy of your credit report to see who has checked your credit history and if anyone is using your name to run up debts.
  • Warn your family and friends about the scam.
  • Talk to someone if you need support.

QBANK tip: If you have been the victim of identity theft, contact IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service. You can also apply for a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate which can help remove fraudulent transactions from your record.

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