Heard the one about the struggling Nigerian prince who just needs you to send him some cash so he can liberate his inheritance and send you $1 million? You may think everyone knows this story, but hundreds still fall prey to this scam every year.
And thanks to the pandemic, when we are all at home hunched over our computers, scammers are making fortunes by fleecing innocent new investors.
Common scams in Australia include calls from unusual numbers pretending to be the tax office or your bank, misleading offers to buy or sell goods and services, fake charities and fake competition winnings.
And just this week, ASIC alerted investors about fake Telstra corporate bonds being promoted by scammers.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak there has been nearly $10 million in reported losses across Australia to scams, with over 6,415 reports to Scamwatch. Some current scams include those offering to mail vaccines or asking for payment for early vaccine access.
The Australian Financial Complains Authority or AFCA are an organisation that offers financial dispute resolution for consumers and small businesses that haven’t been able to resolve a dispute with the relevant financial service organisation.
AFCA have supplied us with information on how to avoid a scam and what to do if you think you’ve become victim to one.
Why do scammers want your information?
In short, scammers wanting your information is obviously never good news.
However, some reasons include accessing your bank account, to take out loans, make purchases or withdraw money.
Common reasons also include stealing superannuation funds, accessing online government services such as MyGob, accessing your email and social media accounts to impersonate you and scam your family and friends and signing up to services.
Tips to avoid a scam
- If you get contacted by anyone claiming to be from your bank or a government agency, don’t give them access to personal details until you have contacted the relevant body to make sure it was them who contacted you.
- If anyone puts pressure on you to quickly send funds or any deals is appearing too good to be true, you should discuss the proposal with friends, family or a professional adviser before accepting it.
- Never send money, credit card details or personal documents to someone you don’t know or businesses you don’t trust.
- If a business doesn’t seem legitimate, search its name on the ACCC Scamwatch website or ASIC MoneySmart website before sending them any funds or personal details
- Make sure all your sensitive documents are either shredded or securely stored online.
- Don’t open or forward strange or unreliable emails or websites.
- Carefully look over credit report at least once a year to search for and catch unauthorised activity, you can use a reputable credit reference bureau for help.
- Always report scams to help others from falling into the same traps.
- If you make regular payments to an account and are told the account details are changed, make phone contact with the recipient to confirm the change before sending money to the new account details
Next steps if you think you’ve been scammed
- If you’ve already shared money or credit card details with an unreliable source, then contact your bank or financial firm straight away.
- If the scam was on social media, report it o the social media platform.
- If you’ve given out personal information, visit IDCARE, which is Australia and New Zealand’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service.
- Get a credit report from a reputable credit reference bureau.
- Report to scamwatch.
- If you’re not satisfied with resolutions from your bank or financial firm, contact AFCA, who will help you with your dispute for free.
If you haven’t been able to resolve a complaint directly with your financial firm, you can contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority on 1800 931 678. AFCA offers a free and independent dispute resolution service. Find out more at afca.org.au.