Scams Awareness Week
COTA ACT is a proud partner of 2018 Scams Awareness Week.
This Scams Awareness Week, which runs from 21–25 May 2018, Australians are urged to be on the lookout for threat-based impersonation scams by taking a moment to ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’
In these scams, scammers pretend to be from a government agency or well-known company. Their aim is to scare you into parting with your money or personal information and if you don’t, they threaten you with fines, disconnecting your internet, taking you to court, arrest or even deportation.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of these scams in 2017. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.
If you’re contacted unexpectedly and threatened by someone who says they’re from a government agency or trusted business, always consider the possibility that it may be a scam – then stop and check if it’s for real.
For more tips and information about these scams, where to get help or to report a scam, visit the Scamwatch website (www.scamwatch.gov.au/scamsweek2018).
How these scams work
- Some scammers claim to be from government departments or trusted, well-known businesses and use threats to pressure or scare you into giving them money or your personal information.
- These threats are commonly received over the phone. Almost 85 per cent of reports submitted to Scamwatch about these scams identified that the scammer had contacted them over the phone. The remaining were contacted by email.
- The typical threats scammers use include that you will receive a fine, you will be charged additional fees, your internet will be disconnected, the police or debt collectors will be sent to your home or even that you will be taken to court, arrested or deported.
- Scammers impersonate government officials and say that you have an outstanding tax debt or that there are problems with your government benefits, immigration papers or visa status, and you need to pay the debt or other fees to fix the problems.
- Scammers also pretend to be from trusted businesses and organisations, including energy or telecommunications providers, Australia Post, banks and law enforcement agencies like the police. They may call and ask for remote access to your computer to fix a problem or they may email you fake invoices or fines, and threaten to cancel your service or charge you excessive penalty fees if you don’t pay them immediately.
- If the scammer sends an email, it is likely to include an attachment or a link where you can download proof of the ‘bill’, ‘fine’ or ‘missed delivery details’ but opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.
- Older people have been particularly vulnerable to these scams. People aged 65 and over submitted the largest number of reports to Scamwatch in 2017 and had the highest reported losses. Young people, people from non-English speaking backgrounds and people experiencing financial hardship have also been affected by these scams.
Protect yourself tips
- When dealing with uninvited contacts from government agencies or trusted businesses – whether over the phone, by email, mail, in person or through social media – always consider the possibility that it may be a scam.
- If you’re unsure whether a call or email is genuine, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search, then get in touch with them to ask if they contacted you. Don’t use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent to you.
- Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Hang up then check whether their story is real.
- Don’t respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages asking for you to call someone back. If you do, the scammers may increase their intimidation and attempts to get your money.
- If you’re still unsure, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what has happened.
- Never send money or give your bank account details, credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust, and never by email or over the phone.
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as with gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin.
- Don’t open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails and don’t click on links or open attachments – just delete them.
- Never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue – whether through a phone call, pop up window or email – and even if they claim to be from a well-known company like Telstra.
Have you been scammed?
- 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 may 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.
- As scammers are often based overseas, it is extremely difficult for government agencies to track them down or for law enforcement to take action against them. So 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 the Scamwatch website (www.scamwatch.gov.au/scamsweek2018).