In today's digital age, staying safe and savvy in managing your finances is paramount. Scammers and fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated in their tactics, targeting individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Even the savviest individuals can fall victim and suffer financial losses. In this guide, we will explore the difference between scams and fraud, learn practical steps to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, and discover warning signs to look out for.
Understanding Scams and Fraud
Before diving into protective measures, let's clarify the difference between scams and fraud. A scam occurs when someone gains your confidence to steal your money or personal information. Scammers often employ elaborate lies and emotional manipulation to deceive their victims. On the other hand, fraud takes place when someone accesses your funds without your knowledge or consent. You may only discover the fraudulent activity when you review your bank statements or receive a notification from your financial institution.
Avoiding Scams: Practical Tips
- Hang up on Suspicious Phone Calls: Avoid disclosing personal information to unknown callers, even if they claim to represent reputable companies. If in doubt, contact the organisation directly using verified contact information.
- Protect Your Passwords: Think twice before sharing passwords, PINs, or SMS codes with anyone. There are only limited instances where you are asked to provide a password to a company. For example, QBANK uses a phone banking password to verify we are speaking to the right person. Again, if in doubt contact the organisation directly using verified contact information.
- Secure Your Devices: If you share a computer, avoid saving your passwords and always log out of accounts after use. Be cautious when clicking on email attachments or links and delete suspicious messages.
- Report Suspected Scams: If you believe you've been scammed, notify your bank immediately. Reporting scams can help prevent others from falling victim to the same schemes and the earlier you report, the more likely it is that you will be able to recover lost funds.
Avoiding Fraud: Best Practices
- Shop Securely Online: Use only secure websites with URLs starting with "https" and look for the padlock symbol in the address bar before entering your personal details.
- Protect Personal Information: Keep your PINs and passwords confidential and refrain from recording or sharing them with others. If you forget a password, contact your bank for assistance.
- Regularly Monitor Your Accounts: Check your bank statements regularly for any suspicious transactions and report them as soon as you can to your financial institution.
Identifying Fraud and Scams
Identifying whether a call or email is fraudulent, or a potential scam can be difficult, however the end goal will always be to access your personal or financial information:
- Emotional Manipulation: They prey on fear, loneliness, desire, and compassion, coercing victims into making decisions they wouldn't otherwise make.
- Targeting Vulnerabilities: They identify and exploit factors like isolation, age, financial hardship, language barriers, and low computer skills to take advantage of individuals.
- Manipulating Trust: They are skilled at gaining victims' trust by impersonating honest individuals or reputable organisations.
- Employing Threats: They may use threats of fines, service disconnection, arrest, or deportation to intimidate victims into compliance.
Removing emotional factors in every transaction is important. Always ask yourself ‘Would my bank be asking me these questions?’.
Red Flags and Warning Signs
To protect yourself, be wary of the following warning signs:
- Unrealistic Offers: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
- Unsolicited Contact: Beware of unexpected phone calls, texts, or emails requesting personal information or remote access to your computer.
- Feeling Pressured: Be sceptical of anyone rushing you into immediate payments or upfront deposits.
- Unknown Transactions: Keep an eye out for unfamiliar or small transactions, especially those testing account activity.
Protecting Your Family
If you have older loved ones, watch out for these signs indicating potential decline or susceptibility to scams:
- Unusual Activity: Significant withdrawals or uncharacteristic purchases.
- Changes in Legal Documents: Sudden alterations to wills or power of attorney.
- Carrying Large Amounts of Cash: Being fearful of eviction if they don't hand over money.
- Unreceived Services: Not getting products or services they've paid for.
Responding to Scams and Fraud
If you believe you've been scammed or experienced fraudulent activity, take the following steps:
- Contact Your Bank: Report the incident immediately to stop money transfers, close compromised accounts or temporarily block cards.
- Change Passwords and PINs: Change your login details and PIN numbers promptly to secure your accounts.
- Report the Scam: Inform government agencies like scamwatch.gov.au to help identify scammers and prevent further incidents.
Staying safe and savvy in the face of scams and fraud requires awareness, caution, and proactive measures. By understanding the tactics of scammers and being vigilant for warning signs, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from financial harm. Remember, knowledge is power, and the more informed you are, the better equipped you become to navigate the digital landscape securely.
For more information see our Savvy & Savvy Guide.
This information is general in nature and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs, therefore, you should consider whether this information is appropriate for your personal circumstances before making a financial decision.