Scammers try to collect personal information. This is identity theft. They do this in a number of ways. They may ask you for your bank details so they can transfer ‘a prize’ (for a competition you didn’t enter) into your account, or threaten that they will lock your account if you don’t give them personal information to ‘verify’ your identify. They may ask if you could hold some money for them in your bank account, known as fake mule recruiting, or offer goods or services that may never be delivered (credit card and money transfer scams).
Some scammers have very professional emails, websites or call centre staff to convince you that the offer is genuine. They often look and sound like the real thing — a real bank, a real online shop or a real internet service provider. Sometimes they pretend to be an organisation like Centrelink or Australia Post or another service that many of us use.
Following are some common scams — if in doubt, go to Scamwatch for help and more information.
In this case scammers try to convince you that you have won or inherited money and you need to provide banking details or other information to access or receive the money. This is false – they are trying to access your money to steal it.
If you didn’t enter a competition, there is no real prize. Never give anyone your banking details over the phone, by email or SMS unless you made the initial contact. Delete these emails and SMSs and hang up on any callers who say you have won a prize or opportunity.
In some cases, scammers do provide actual prizes such as a trip and luggage which contains hidden drugs for unsuspecting recipients to carry.
You just got lucky
Scammers may also try to convince you that you are one of the lucky ones, offering an opportunity to invest in a new idea or product, or to receive an inheritance. None of this is real. They want your bank details to steal your money.
There is no inheritance or investment opportunity. Do not respond. Check Scamwatch to see if others have received the same email/message or phone call.
Scammers can set up web pages, emails or calls to make them look and sound like real charities, and then they ask for donations or bank details. Again, they only want to steal your money.
Do not respond to requests for money through email, phone calls or SMS. If you want to give to a charity, look up their contact details, do some research, make sure they are real and that your money will get to them.
Before making a donation, check that the site is legitimate. Look for ‘https’ in the URL of the site, to indicate that any information you provide will be secure and encrypted. Also check the domain name (anything before the .com or .org). Make sure the website address follows the format of charityname.org or charityname.org.au, not charitynametherealdeal.org. Misspellings, fuzzy images or low resolution pictures and logos may also be indictors of a fraudulent website.
Dating and romance
Dating and romance scams are also common. Scammers establish an online romantic relationship with people over weeks, months and even years. They claim to be in love (often quite early in the relationship) and show great interest in the person — calling, emailing and messaging often. They shower the person with praise and attention and, sometimes, gifts.
Dating scammers often claim to live overseas or be Australian but travelling. There are many excuses for not being able to meet in person. They may play on your emotions, so you give them money. They may claim to need an operation or to want to visit you, for example, but say they do not have enough money for an airfare. They may also ask you to buy goods or services for them or ask you to send goods to another address. This is nearly always criminal and could be very dangerous. These relationships seem very real but the scammers are having the same fake relationship with many people at the one time. They are using each person to steal their money, or for other criminal offences such as money laundering.
Be wary of any potential romantic partner who approaches you online. If you want to send them photos, it’s best not to send photos you wouldn’t want others to see. Some scammers blackmail people using intimate photos and videos. Do an image search of the person to try and work out if they have used a fake profile picture. Image search services such as Google or a reverse image search using a service like TinEye may be useful. If you agree to meet in person tell someone you know where you are meeting and take someone with you.
Scamwatch strongly recommends that people never travel overseas to meet a romantic interest in person for the first time. Be very wary if the person requests money for travel, an operation, or asks you to pass on goods or money. For example, there have been a number of recent cases where people travelling to meet romantic interests or potential business partners have been used as drug mules. Never send money or give them credit card details, online account details or copies of important documents.
Scamwatch provides more information and warnings about scams and how to report them.