Thinking about fraud
In an age where technology can go a long way to protect us all from fraud, why do many scams still work? Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details.
Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. 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.
Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. Scammers are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal details. So, what are the best ways to protect yourself?
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.
Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails. If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
Keep your personal details secure. Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. And be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites.
Beware of any requests for your details or money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence. You should also check your bank and credit card statements each month for any unusual activity.
Be wary of unusual payment requests. Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
According to the ACCC’s Targeting Scams report, the number of investment scams reported to Scamwatch in 2018 increased by 24% from the previous year.1 Investment scams are often so professional, slick and believable that it can be hard to tell them apart from genuine investment opportunities.
Investment scams can come to you via a phone call, email or social media. Some of the most common tricks a scammer may tell you they’re offering include: an opportunity with no risk or low risk, because you’ll be able to get a refund for non-performance; the opportunity to invest before a public float with discounts for early bird investors, or; the opportunity to make high, quick returns that are sometimes tax-free. In all investment scams, the money you 'invest' goes straight into the scammer's bank account and not towards any real investment.
There are some early warning signs that can point towards an investment scam. Generally, the investment offer may be a scam if the person does not have an Australian financial services (AFS) licence, or says they do not need one. Similarly, the scammer may claim to be a professional broker or portfolio manager, but, if they do not present their AFS licence, you should not conduct any financial business with them. Other warning signs include: repeatedly trying to keep you on the phone; forcing you to make a quick decision; claiming to be associated with a reputable organisation to gain credibility (i.e. ASX, Bloomberg, NASDAQ), or; offering you a prospectus that is not registered with ASIC.
If the investment offer has some of these signs, hang up the phone or delete the email. If you manage to record some of the caller's details you can report the offer to ASIC. You can also check MoneySmart’s list of companies you should not deal with, to see whether they are known scammers.
What to do if you have been scammed
If you think a scammer has targeted you, you should immediately delete and block all contact from the scammer. You should also call your bank to report the scam, and ask them to freeze your accounts if the scammer has accessed any money. You can also file a police report and report the scam to the relevant agency to help stop the scammer. If the scam was financial in nature, including those involving superannuation, managed funds, financial advice, financial products or insurance, you should report the scam to ASIC.
Unfortunately, most scam victims don't get their money back. This is because it's often very difficult to track down the person or group that has scammed you. If you have sent money to an overseas company, Australian government agencies cannot help you get your money back as those companies are out of their jurisdiction. The key is knowing how to recognise a scam, protect yourself and what to do if you think you’ve been targeted or have fallen victim.
 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Targeting scams: report of the ACCC on scam activity 2018, April 2019.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is general in nature and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether it is appropriate for your personal circumstances prior to making any investment decision.