Published 24/08/2021 by Josh Tucker

It is nearly impossible to avoid online scams these days and scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. 

If there is anyone with internet access or a phone that hasn't been on the end of an attempted scam or phishing expedition in recent years, they haven't noticed it rather than not been targeted.

Scams target everyone

Scams target and sometimes succeed on people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels right across Australia. It is because the scams are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, to make them look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it.

There's no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time. If you believe you're being scammed, stop communicating with the person immediately, contact the relevant company or service provider via their official communication channels and let them know if you have given any personal information.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

If something seems more exciting, pleasing, or ideal than seems reasonable, then it likely isn't genuine, legitimate, or true. Because it is nearly impossible to avoid online scams, being alert to the common types of scams and protect yourself from being scammed by following our tips and knowing what to watch out for.

Whether it's a panicked 'friend' stranded and in need of a few hundred dollars, or a text message telling you you've won a competition that you never entered, it seems we're constantly being barraged with offers that are actually too good to be true.

Common types of scams to watch out for

Phishing scams 
Have you ever got an email, phone call or text message asking you to confirm your information or passwords? Most companies will not do this and this type of scam is considered 'phishing' for information and works by luring people into giving out personal details such as confirming your credit card number or password.

To protect yourself, don't click on any links or open any attachments from emails claiming to be from a company that asks you to update or verify your personal details. Go directly to their website and see if you are prompted after login in for the same information or contact them directly on a number you find and not the one provided in the scam.

Identity theft scams
When scammers attempt to gain access to your personal information that may not be publically known, such as drivers license number, mothers maiden name or online username. Phishing falls under this category, along with hacking, remote access scams, malware and ransomware, document theft and fake online profiles. With your personal information, they attempt to apply for loans and benefits and create fake or even real identity documents in your name.

Protect your personal details by never revealing them to anyone, changing your passwords regularly, limiting the information you share on social media, and deleting suspicious texts or emails without opening them. A competition promoter does not need to know your mothers maiden name or drivers license number in order for you to enter and this should raise red flags if you are asked for this type of information.

Unexpected winnings
You will receive notification that you have won a lot of money or a fantastic prize in a competition or lottery and works by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. The scammers make money by continually collecting these fees from you and stalling the payment of your winnings.

To protect yourself, keep a record of the competition that you enter and contact the competition promoter directly via their official communication channels and not the ones provided in the scam and confirm any details with them directly and they can let others know if scammers are targeting their competition.

Our top tips to avoid being scammed

  • Turn on two-factor authentication on your accounts where available.
  • Be wary of offers that sound too good to be true and check independent reviews of sellers or the site you're using.
  • Think carefully before clicking on a link in an email or SMS as it may contain malware or be a phishing link to gather your personal information. Even if the SMS pops up in the same thread as other texts from a legitimate organisation, it may still be a scam.
  • Be suspicious of any out-of-the blue phone calls from people claiming to be a service provider, such as your telephone or internet provider. You can always hang up the phone and ring the business back on a phone number you have for them.
  • Keep your passwords secure and don't share them with anyone.
  • Be extremely suspicious if you're asked for money for someone that wouldn't normally ask or would probably call first.
  • Look out for common spelling, grammatical or language errors in emails, texts or website addresses – they could well suggest a scam.

And lastly, be alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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