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National Scams Awareness Week - Are you Aware?

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don't fall for a scam

It’s National Scams Awareness Week and while you might be wondering how that is relevant to you, be assured the threat of scams is real and anyone can be a target. If you own a mobile phone, have a landline phone service, or use email or the internet you can (and probably will at some point) be targeted.

In fact, according to Aussies are set to lose a record amount to scams this year, with projections from losses reported to Scamwatch and other government agencies so far expected to exceed $532 million by the end of the year. The first time in Australian history scam loss projections have exceeded half a billion dollars over twelve months.

Too Smart to be Scammed?

It’s easy to think you’re too smart to be tricked into sharing personal information, clicking dodgy links or paying for illegitimate goods, but scammers are employing more and more advanced methods to lure innocent people into being scammed. Here are a few things to be mindful of when assessing a potential scam.

  • Scammers aim to gain your trust by using the guise of a well-known business or a contact known to you personally, or they may appear to have the endorsement of a celebrity or the media.
  • Scammers will guide you to their own verification procedures (such as getting to you click a link, call a number they provide to you or send you to their own website made to look like an official page).
  • Scammers will attempt to manipulate you by appealing to or triggering your emotions to get you to act.
  • Scammers will create a sense of urgency to encourage you to make decisions quickly and without careful consideration.

How to Avoid Investment Scams

While you might find it easy to avoid clicking a dodgy looking link online and know to just hang up on a robot telling you that you owe money to the ATO, you may fall prey to some of the more sophisticated scams out there. Investment scams are emerging as one of the more convincing scams around and unfortunately also tend to have the highest losses. Promoted often on social media using fake celebrity endorsements, cryptocurrency scams are just one type of investment scam and they alone have already accounted for over $14m in losses since January this year.  Almost half of all investment scams reported since January 2019 have resulted in a financial loss.

If something seems too good to be true, it’s probably is! If you’re unsure, ASIC has a list of companies to avoid dealing with, but there will always be other scams on rotation not listed with ASIC. Always do thorough research before embarking on any online investment, and ideally speak with a financial advisor before committing to anything.

What to look out for 

Familiarise yourself with the warning signs that may indicate a scam. These include

  • non-secure web addresses (ie. http instead of https)
  • non-secure payment methods (such as wire, bank or international funds transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin);
  • grammatical or spelling errors
  • requests for you to do something (such as share your personal details or click a malicious link)

Be extra cautious when on social media, when shopping online and when answering the phone, and don’t ever give anyone who has contacted you out of the blue your personal details, banking details or remote access to your computer, regardless of who they say they are. Better to be over in cautious than carefree.

While you might spot a scam from a mile away, others may not. So even if you know not to take the bait you can still report a scam, as it can help others from falling victim. Your report helps the ACCC to warn the community about the latest scams.

To help raise awareness the ACCC has produced a series of videos with tips and tricks on how to spot a scam, and to test people’s awareness of scams. The full series is also available on YouTube.

Endeavour Mutual Bank also has some useful information on avoiding online scams as well as some tips and tricks to improve your online security.

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.