A text message from Australia Post says your parcel needs collection.
Your bank calls and the teller on the phone has all your details – they ask you to move some money into a new account.
A financial adviser offers you an investment with high returns – the trading platform looks legitimate and has the Australian Securities and Investments Commission logo.
These are just some of the scams circulating as more than $1m is lost every day in Australia to fraudsters.
There is little recourse for victims, with the Reserve Bank of Australia saying it is “extremely difficult” to get money back from scammers.
How to protect yourself from being scammed
The Consumer Law Centre Victoria chief executive, Gerard Brody, says it has become incredibly difficult to spot a scam. “Anyone can get tricked into a scam, I don’t think people should blame themselves,” Brody said.
“They’re a victim of crime – they should not in any way be feeling at fault. But there can be sometimes clues that we can easily miss.”
Scams are becoming more sophisticated and easier to carry out. In many cases, the scammers know where you live, your financial history, the bank you use and your date of birth. They can even text you from official-looking numbers.
So, to protect yourself, Brody says, you should be wary of anyone contacting you unsolicited about money, with a deal or asking you for financial details.
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“Even from your bank, if you aren’t expecting a call from them – anyone that contacts you unsolicited these days, you should take steps to confirm they’re genuine,” he said.
“That might include contacting them back through a different mechanism. Find their genuine phone number by looking it up online, rather than speaking [to] someone unsolicited.”
People should double-check if the email or message requests a payment or transfer of funds, said Dr Khandakar Ahmed, senior lecturer in IT at Victoria University.
If it urges you to click on hyperlinked text or urges immediate action of some kind or asks you for personal details, assume it’s a scam, he warned.
“Check everything, don’t click the links or download any of the attachments,” Ahmed said.
Telling the person you will call them back will give you an opportunity to call your own bank.
A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommended three steps.
“Stop – take your time before giving money or personal information. Think – ask yourself if the message or call could be fake? Protect – act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank and report scams to Scamwatch,” the spokesperson said.
There are a range of companies that offer to monitor your cybersecurity, but Brody said these were often unnecessary.
“Another service provider doesn’t mean you’re always protected,” he said. “We should be aiming for a safe online space where people are able to transact safely without risk.”
What to do if you have been scammed
If you have been scammed and the money has been paid to the scammer, it is unlikely you will get it back. But you need to act quickly and report the scam immediately to your bank or financial institution.
“If you have paid and did the transaction, currently we don’t have that much help to get it back,” Ahmed said. “But contact your bank, seek help, and see if it’s possible to stop the transaction.”
After contacting the bank, the ACCC recommends victims contact IDCare, a charity that can offer advice to individuals who have been scammed, and then report the scam to Scamwatch, which records data on fraudulent activity.
“If an Australian is concerned that your identity has been compromised or they have been a victim of a scam, they should contact their bank immediately and call IDCARE on 1800 595 160,” the spokesperson said.
“IDCARE is Australia’s national identity and cyber support service.
“Australians can also report scams to Scamwatch www.scamwatch.gov.au and check cyber.gov.au for information about cybersecurity.”
Brody said if you have lost money from a scam and the bank has refused to reimburse you, you can lodge a complaint.
“If the bank denies you a refund or remedy, or offers only a partial remedy, you can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. They will review the matter.”