Every year, thousands of Australians are targeted by scams, whether it be online, via phone, mail or even in person. Australian Community Media has compiled a list of current scams identified on sites such as scamwatch.gov.au, www.cyber.gov.au and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s website dedicated to informing people about fraudulent and dishonest activities.
Record scam losses in 2020
- Australians lost a record $851 million to scams last year with investment ($328m loss), romance ($131m) and payment redirection scams ($128m) accounting for almost 70 per cent of all losses from 444,000 scam reports
- Phishing – where a fraudulent message designed to trick someone into revealing sensitive information – thrived during the pandemic, especially through government impersonation scams. There were more than 44,000 reports of phishing scams, representing a 75 per cent increase from 2019
- Health and medical scams increased more than 20 fold compared to 2019, accounting for over $3.9 million in losses
- Losses to threat based scams increased by 178 per cent to $11.8 million, and there were more than $8.4 million in losses to remote access scams, an increase of over 74 per cent
- People who detect a scam, whether or not they have lost money to it, can report scams and learn more about how to get help at scamwatch.gov.au
Read more about scam losses in 2020 here.
Watch out for ‘bitumen bandits’
- Fair trading is urging people to be wary of travelling conmen that are passing through regional towns.
- Dubbed the ‘bitumen bandits’ these scammers have been scammers have been active for decades, offering cheap labour, usually bitumen laying or sometimes roofing, only to take off with the consumer’s cash before completing the service or carrying out shoddy work, such as simply spraying black tinted paint.
- Fair Trading has warned that bitumen bandits can be extremely convincing and exhibit several characteristics that can help consumers spot them.
- Fair trading also warned that these scammers present extremely professionally, even with work vehicles and websites.
- Anyone who believes they are being approached, or have been approached, by a bitumen bandit are urged to collect all details possible and report sightings to the police and NSW Fair Trading.
- Contractors and labourers in NSW are required to hold a White Card, which you can request to see. These cards have also recently been digitised through the Service NSW app, so if the person does not have their physical copy you can request to see their digital copy. If they cannot supply either, that is a red flag.
- Scammers are claiming to have intimate videos or photos of you and are threatening to share them online unless you pay them in bitcoin, according to Scamwatch.gov.au.
- The victim may receive an email or message claiming that they have 48 hours to pay the scammer in bitcoin or else the ‘incriminating’ images or videos will be released to the public.
- The message often warns the victim not to go to the police, tell their friends or try to trace the scammer.
- Scamwatch urges people who receive such a message not to respond to it and to delete it immediately.
Telstra scam with a twist
- Scamwatch has reported of a another scam targeting Telstra customers.
- The scammers claim that the victim has overpaid a phone or internet bill and ask the victim to enter their personal details to claim the refund.
- People are being urged not to click on any links and to delete the email upon receipt.
- Telstra has also warned that such phishing scams may ask you to reply to the email and include things such as your password, or they may ask you to click a link to visit a website.
- Often, the website will look similar to a legitimate Telstra website (such as My Telstra) and may ask you for even more sensitive information.
- Badly written emails with broken sentences, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and words in a foreign language may be indicators of a scam email.
- Telstra urges customers to refer to My Telstra at myid.telstra.com for accurate account information.
Caravan and motorhome scams
- Scamwatch is warning people to be on the lookout for fraudsters selling caravans and motorhomes at too-good-to-be-true prices.
- Scammers often ask for payment through a third party escrow company.
- Some are falsely claiming to represent major caravan and motorhome companies which are selling stock at reduced prices due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The scam may involve asking the victim to transfer money into an account in order to pay shipping costs. One this happens the seller vanishes.
- Scamwatch is urging people to always inspect the vehicle before purchase.
- Scamwatch has received almost 50 reports of investment scams this week and scammers are making contact on social media platforms.
- The site is urging people to avoid sending money or personal details to anyone you don’t know. Be suspicious of guaranteed returns and always seek independent advice before investing.
- Scammers often target people who are already looking for good investment opportunities and have done their research. The most common group of victims to investment scams are men between the ages of 35 to 44, according to Scamwatch.gov.au
- They may use scripts that use investment language and fake websites showing fictitious profits to convince you that they are legitimate.
- Scammers make contact by phone, with internet, email and social networking being other popular contact methods.
- If they contact you via phone, they may try to forge a connection and create a sense of urgency to invest in the false opportunity before it expires.
- If you sent money to the scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
- Scamwatch suggests advising them that you have been scammed and ask them to cancel the payment if possible.
- They may be able to stop a transaction, or close your account if the scammer has your account details.
- According to Scamwatch scam victims can be targeted again because scammers share information and target people that have previously lost money.
- Be wary of future unsolicited approaches offering you an investment opportunity or service to recover your funds, especially if they seem too good to be true.
Vehicle ad scams with a twist
- Scammers have now begun impersonating defence personnel to con their victims into falling for vehicle ad scams, according to Scamwatch.gov.au.
- Scammers post fake online listings offering to sell in-demand cars at well below market value to lure potential buyers looking for a second hand vehicle. Scammers seek payment to secure the car for the buyer but never deliver the vehicle.
- Vehicle scams are commonly hosted on sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Autotrader, Car Sales, Cars Guide and Gumtree.
- According to Scamwatch, as second hand car sales increased during the pandemic so did vehicle scams. If current trends continue, Australians could lose much more to vehicle scams this year than the $1 million lost in 2020.
- A new technique being used is scammers pretending to be defence personnel. In 97 per cent of reports received this year, the scammer claimed to be in the military (navy, army and air force), or to work for the Department of Defence, and said they wanted to sell their vehicle before deployment.
- This sought to create a sense of urgency with buyers and explained the unusually low listing price of the vehicles and why buyers could not inspect them prior to payment.
- Email addresses that do not bear the legitimate the defence email format of @defence.gov.au may be an indication of a scam, but even the correct email format does not guarantee the car ad is not a scam, as scammers are able to spoof email addresses. It is best to look for all warning signs to avoid being scammed.
- A price that is too good to be true should be a warning sign for potential buyers.
Scams targeting .au domain holders
- Scamwatch is urging website owners to be wary of a scam targeting .au pages and sites.
- Scammers are impersonating .au Domain Administration @auda and asking people to upload their personal documents.
- Fraudulent emails are being sent out asking recipients to verify personal information regarding the domain holder.
- The email threatens to cancel the domain if a response is not received within 24 hours.
- Scamwatch is warning people not to click on the links within the email or upload any documents and instead, delete the email.
COVID vaccine scams
Scamwatch has received reports of scams relating to COVID-19 vaccines including those that request payment for vaccines or for early access to vaccines; offers to mail vaccines; offers to pay money as an investment opportunity in the Pfizer vaccine and; fake surveys related to vaccines that offer prizes or early access.
To avoid a vaccination scam:
- Don’t give personal information to someone who calls you about the vaccine
- Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or text messages
- Don’t pay to get on a vaccination list – COVID-19 vaccines will be free for everyone living in Australia
- Don’t pay for early access to a vaccine – you can’t pay for early access
- You will not need a prescription from a GP to get vaccinated
If you are asked for any of these by someone claiming to provide COVID-19 vaccines, it is a scam.
Be careful when you get unexpected contact or messages – remember, scammers can impersonate the government too. Always source phone numbers independently from official government websites.
ANZ phishing scam
- Scamwatch has received an increase in reports of scammers impersonating the ANZ banking institution to gain access to sensitive information and data via text messages. This type of scam is referred to as ‘phishing’.
- The text message claiming to be from the ANZ tells the user that there has been unsuccessful log in attempts on their account or that the account has been restricted. Don’t click on any links in the text message and delete it immediately. This is a scam.
Payment redirection scams
Australian businesses reported over $14 million in losses to Scamwatch due to payment redirection scams last year, and average losses so far in 2021 are more than five times higher compared to average losses in the same period last year, according to scamwatch.gov.au
In a payment redirection scam, also known as business email compromise scams, scammers impersonate a business or its employees via email and request that money, which usually is owed to the legitimate business, is sent to a fraudulent account.
- Scammers tend to target new or junior employees, or even volunteers, as they are less likely to be familiar with their employer’s finance processes or the types of requests to expect from their supervisors.
- Payment redirection scams can take several different forms. In some instances, scammers hack into a legitimate email account and pose as the business, by intercepting legitimate invoices and amending the bank details before releasing emails to the intended recipients.
- Other times, payment redirection is done by spoofing, when scammers impersonate CEOs or other senior managers using a registered email address that is very similar to that of the genuine email address.
- The scammer will then request that staff transfer funds to them or make a payment to a third party on behalf of the business.
- Scamwatch has also received reports of scammers posing as staff members, where they request the employee’s salary be paid into the scammer’s bank account.
- More information on scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.
COVID-19 Vaccination scams
- Scamwatch is warning Australians of scams relating to COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia and overseas that may attempt to gain your personal information and lead to financial loss.
- The organisations is warning people not to give personal information to someone who calls about the vaccine.
- Don’t pay to get on a vaccination list – COVID-19 vaccines will be free for everyone living in Australia.
- Don’t pay for early access to a vaccine – you can’t pay for early access.
- You will not need a prescription from a GP to get vaccinated.
- Scammers may try to obtain your personal information by claiming it is required for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Scamwatch warns that If you are asked for any of these by someone claiming to provide COVID-19 vaccines, it is a scam.
- Other vaccine scams that Scamwatch is aware of include offers to pay money as an investment opportunity in the Pfizer vaccine and fake surveys related to the vaccine.
- These surveys offer a prize or even early access to the vaccine for their completion. In reality, the surveys are after your personal or financial information.
- Scamwatch.gov.au has received more than 100 reports of vehicle sale scams through online marketplaces in March alone.
- According to carsguide.com.au scams will target sellers with an offer to purchase the vehicle, often without inspecting it.
- Scammer will offer to pay via PayPal and claims to live interstate. They will claim they need to organise freight transport for the vehicle.
- They will then claim an issue with paying the freight company so instead offer to pay you more and ask you to pay the freight cost into a western union account.
- The buyer then sends fake PayPal receipts to the seller showing the extra funds. The seller is scammed after they have paid the funds into the account and then find out that the original payment into PayPal was faked.
- Other scams will target the buyer with a sale price well below market rates.
- The seller often claims the vehicle is interstate and unavailable for inspection.
- Scammers will often ask for an up-front deposit. Once the deposit has been made, the seller then disappears.
- SMS scams will target sellers with the aim of engaging in a dialogue with the unsuspecting target to entice them into a scam.
- Carsguide.com.au warns that people should never transfer money without inspecting the vehicle first and urges people to check all contact details of the person they are conducting business with.
- Check that the phone number in the ad is connected and that the address provided actually exists.
- It is recommended that communication should be conducted via phone conversation rather than text or email.
- Remember, if an offer looks to good to be true, it probably is.
myGov refund scam
- Scammers are once again impersonating myGov representatives to target Australians.
- The scammer will claim that the person is eligible for a $106.95 refund.
- This scam may be via email or phone.
- The targeted victim will be asked to provide personal information over the phone or via a form or link.
- Scammers may also attempt to get the target to download a link.
- The scam may also purport to have important information that tells the victim their refund won’t be processed unless they confirm their identity. It may also threaten to cancel their account if one or more attempts are unsuccessful
Bold NSW police call scam
- Scam callers pretending to be from the NSW Police Force are threatening call recipients with fines or arrest
- The scammer states that the person receiving the call has an outstanding fine or warrant. They then demand a form of payment to prevent arrest or further court action. Reports also indicate that the scammers ask for a copy of a driver’s licence and photo for ‘identification purposes’
- The NSW Police Force will never call members of the public and demand payment over the phone in order to avoid going to court or being arrested
- If you receive an unexpected call from someone who states they’re from the police, and starts asking for personal details or threatens you, don’t pay any money or provide personal details. Hang up
- If you’re concerned, verify by contacting your local police or the Police Assistance Line on 131 444
Australia Post scams
- Scamwatch.gov.au has warned of Australia Post scams doing the rounds again.
- Fraudulent emails that are circulating advising customers of an update for a shipment and prompting them to click on a link to pay a fee.
- The link will lead to a fraudulent website which is designed to steal your personal and financial information.
- Australia Post will never email, call or text you asking for personal or financial information or a payment.
- Australia Post’s advice is to report a suspicious email or text message that appears to be from Australia Post to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete it immediately.
Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Scams
- Scammers pretend to be from the ATO tell people their tax file number (TFN) has either been suspended due to illegal activity or compromised by a scammer.
- They request the call recipient to either pay a fine to release their TFN or transfer all bank funds into a holding account to protect it from future misuse.
- The ATO does not suspend TFNs and will never request you pay a fine or transfer money in order to protect your TFN pending legal action.
- Phone calls from the ATO do not project a number on caller ID and we will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone.
- If you receive a phone call like this, hang up and do not provide the information requested.
- If you’re unsure whether an ATO contact is genuine, phone 1800 008 540 to check.
Romance baiting scams on the rise
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, love is in the air and scammers are, unfortunately, active.
Last year Australians reported a record-breaking $37 million lost to dating and romance scams and with Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Scamwatch is urging the public to be wary.
Scammers are now using dating apps to lure victims into investment scams.
Called romance baiting, this technique involves scammers meeting people on dating apps and then moving the conversation to an encrypted chat site. After a few weeks of developing a relationship, the scammer will begin asking about the victim’s finances and encourage them to participate in an investment opportunity.
“These scams prey on people seeking connection and can leave victims with significant financial losses and emotional distress,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair, Delia Rickard, said.
“While traditional dating and romance scams tend to target older Australians, almost half of all losses to romance baiting scams come from people under the age of 35.”
Last year Scamwatch received over 400 reports of romance baiting scams.
Scammers often encourage victims to initially transfer a small amount of money to prove how easy the investment is. Victims will be told to top up their accounts to increase their profits but when they run out of money to transfer, the scammer will cease all communication.
Scammers may also use a technique called ‘love bombing’, where they contact the victim several times a day professing their feelings for them. The victim starts to develop feelings in return, making them more likely to participate in the investment scam.
“Remember that you are in control and if you start to feel pressured by someone, stop communicating with them,” Ms Rickard said. “You can also do an internet search with the name or photo of your love interest or some of the phrases they have used to help identify if it is a scam.”
If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed to inform them of the circumstances.
- Scamwatch is urging the public to be aware of text message phishing scams impersonating PayPal, ANZ bank and Westpac.
- More than 180 people have reported the Westpac scam. Scammers send a text impersonating the bank stating “to avoid service restrictions” to click on the supplied hyperlink. The number comes from from various Australian domestic mobile numbers.
- The PayPal and ANZ scams prompts the message recipient to click on a link to review suspicious activity on their accounts.
- Do not click on hyperlinks to sign into your online banking. Securely type the homepage of the financial service into your browser or use their official mobile app.
Remote access scam
- Remote access scams try to convince you that you have a computer or internet problem and that you need to buy new software to fix the problem.
- Scammers are cold-calling Australians pretending to be eBay or Amazon, claiming their account is about to be billed for a purchase they did not make. Just hang up. Do not provide identity documents or allow them to access your devices.
myGOV refund scam
- Scmwatch is reporting that in the last week it has received 80 reports of phishing messages in an ongoing campaign impersonating myGov.
- If you receive a text message claiming you are eligible for a ‘myGOV Refund’ do not click on it. Texts claiming to offer a myGov refund are a scam.
- The message will tell the recipient that after an annual calculation, they are eligible for a refund.
- It will include a monetary figure with AUD after it, and a link to complete an eForm.
- Don’t click on links in emails or text messages claiming to be from myGov. myGov will never send you a text, email or attachment with hyperlinks or web addresses.
Scam targets Amazon Prime customers
- People are being reminded of a scam continuing to circulate that involves people impersonating staff from Amazon Prime.
- People should always be wary of callers claiming you owe money to Amazon or other companies and that funds will be taken from your bank account if you do not act immediately.
- Scammers may also ask you to go online to confirm your personal details or Amazon account information.
- Amazon does not ask customers to disclose or verify personal or account information over the phone.
- If a call sounds suspicious, hang up immediately.
- Never give personal information over the phone unless you can independently confirm who is calling.
- Find out more about phone scams, or visit the Scamwatch website for information about phishing scams.
Woolies chat bot
- Scamwatch is warning of a scam that impersonates Woolworths through a chat bot. A chat appears welcoming the user to a “Woolworths interactive prize universe” and asks to confirm their name to check a prize claim of a $250 gift voucher. This is a scam.
- Do not provide your address or credit card details, or click on the prize option buttons. You will not receive the prize or gift voucher.
JB Hi-Fi text scam
- Scamwatch is warning the public of a wave of scam texts impersonating JB Hi-Fi.
- The text states “you made a purchase in our JB-stores in 2020 and entered our draw by doing this”. The text includes a hyperlink. This link takes the person to a website that looks similar to JB Hi-Fi’s official site, but is not. It prompts the user to click a link to claim their prize. This is a scam.
- Do not provide your personal or financial details to these scammers.
- JB Hi-Fi’s official website is jbhifi.com.au. Any JB Hi-Fi special offers or competitions can be found on this website.