Scammers are always on the lookout for new tactics and opportunities. Keeping your knowledge ahead of the curve is key to protecting your money and personal information.
How scams are changing
One of the more important changes to the nature of scams is their sophistication, which continues to increase. Scammers are always finding new ways to impersonate, sell, and steal effectively. You may think you’re not an ideal target of a scam, but scammers aim for a wide audience, dedicating their skills, time and technology to accessing any funds they can find. Thinking it won’t happen to you is not a safe assumption.
Though scams have long been a growing issue in Australia, recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic have given scammers more avenues to exploit. For example, since the pandemic began, scammers have been targeting government payments, superannuation withdrawals and people’s anxiety about their employment and economic well-being.
During the pandemic and as a result of the shift towards e-commerce, scammers have also had the advantage of individuals being substantially more engaged with their devices and the digital environment. The lesson? Wherever you can be reached, a scammer can find you.
“You may think you’re not an ideal target of a scam, but scammers aim for a wide audience, dedicating their skills, time and technology to accessing any funds they can find.”
Many people believe they won’t fall victim to a scam, but this works on the assumption that scams and scammers are always easy to spot.
It’s helpful to think about scams as a business, which is what many of them have evolved to become. Scammers can and do use the same communication and marketing channels as any other business to target individuals, including SMS, email, phone calls and social media. As businesses continually have new tools at their fingertips to effectively reach individuals, so do scammers.
Scammers now have workforces, often including call centre workers who are skilled in sales psychology. Like any business, they identify gaps in the market and look to exploit them for the greatest return on investment.
In this case, the gap in the market is an individual because it’s easier to persuade a person than it is to defeat the software systems that banks design to protect the accounts and information of their clients. In short, many scammers are finding it easier to convince people to part with their money, instead of going to the trouble of stealing it.
“Many people believe they won’t fall victim to a scam, but this works on the assumption that scams and scammers are always easy to spot.”
Common types of scams in Australia
Typically, individuals stand to lose the most with an investment scam versus any other.1 You can read more about how to protect yourself from an investment scam here.
Both individuals and businesses also need to be aware of the growing risk of Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams. In these operations, scammers intercept emails and alter details on invoices to redirect funds and payments to the scammer. Fortunately, there are simple measures that can help mitigate the risk.
For example, if you get an invoice or instruction to deposit funds, then before you pay it, check the details with the payee. Contact them with details you’ve previously used, not the details you’re provided on the invoice. Investing five minutes could save you from losing tens of thousands.
Scammers also pretend to represent legitimate organisations, including government or financial bodies, to steal personal information. This is a particularly severe problem – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that in 2020, reports of stolen personal information was up by 55 per cent on 2019.2
Scammers have also taken to creating fake online retailers and comparison websites, leveraging their technical know-how and the anonymous nature of shopping and researching online to capture personal and banking details.
In addition, cryptocurrency scams are becoming more common. If you’re interested in exploring these investments, you should never respond to online, SMS or phone-based solicitations. Like with any variety of purchase or investment, it should be with a provider or institution that you trust and have independently verified.
“If you get an invoice or instruction to deposit funds, then check the details with the payee before you pay it.”
How to protect yourself
If you’ve been scammed, recovering your funds is a substantial challenge. Knowledge is one of your best defences. You can download the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams and visit the Australian Banking Association’s scams page for the latest information and updates on common scams and how to protect yourself.
Above all, do your due diligence using independent sources. The slight inconvenience and the time it takes you might be one of the best investments you make. You can also take these practical steps to protect yourself:
Pause: Were you expecting this call, email or offer? Take a second, breathe, and think. Does this feel right? If in doubt, don’t act.
Process: Have you been asked to respond to something urgently such as a delivery notification or request for bank details? Before action, take some time to think through whether this is a legitimate piece of correspondence. If you’re unsure, ask someone you can trust.
Proceed: Always navigate to the organisation’s website yourself to log in.
It’s important to share your knowledge and know-how with others, too. For example, you might have a family member or a loved one who needs to update their understanding of the red flags when it comes to scams to help them avoid financial loss.
Scams are often sophisticated operations; be aware that a professional appearance doesn’t guarantee legitimacy.
If in doubt, don’t act. If an offer doesn’t feel right, the additional steps you take to investigate a potential scam is time well spent.
The types of scams in Australia continue to evolve, and keeping your knowledge of them – and how to protect yourself – is key to keeping your funds secure.
Reach out to our team here for help and advice in finding the best way forward, for you.
Source: Macquarie Bank
1 As at June 2022, https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/investments/investment-scams