Scamwatch – An Occasional Series

I know we have written before about the multitude of scams pervading our lives but I’m afraid they are still a big threat. And as we become comfortable with the common types of scams, the scammers change things up. Consider the story of some entrepreneurial New York beggars. They were finding that just asking for money wasn’t working so well anymore so some of them decided to dress in suits and ties and present as businessmen. They would then stop people in the street, politely explain that they had left their wallet at home and ask for train fare. Well, it worked an absolute treat and the money came gushing in – until, of course, their con was eventually exposed by the media and the willingness of people to give money once again dried up. The moral of the story is not ‘that cons will eventually be exposed’ but ‘that cons can work really well for a while!’.

The latest scam we’ve heard about is a scratchie which turns up uninvited  in the mail, usually from a Malaysian travel company, in which you scratch and win a very large monetary prize. The firm co-ordinating the competition has a very legitimate looking website. In order to collect your prize you first have to send lots of your own money overseas to cover taxes and other alleged expenses. The prize, of course, doesn’t exist. These sorts of scams work on the sheer weight of numbers, ie. they might post a million scratchies. If 5% result in money being sent to the scammer then the scam is a success.

Situations where you should be very suspicious:

  • If you receive an uninvited text, email, or a letter telling you that you have won money
  • If you receive any uninvited correspondence/contact from an overseas location
  • If you are asked to provide personal information such as name, address, tax file number, bank details by an uninvited caller.
  • If you are asked for money by a romantic interest or by someone offering you an uninvited service (eg. someone calls you offering to fix your computer, someone comes to your door offering to fix your guttering or the tax office calls to say you owe them money)

How to avoid being scammed

  • Be suspicious – us Aussies are a very trusting mob which makes us easy targets for scammers. If something seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. If something just doesn’t feel quite right, it’s probably a scam.
  • Be assertive – no matter how genuine someone/something seems, if you aren’t 100% sure, don’t give up your personal information or commit to anything without checking that it is genuine. Even if the caller purports to be the Federal Police,  Centrelink, the Tax Office, Telstra, Optus etc. you can always refuse to speak to them and then call them back once you have looked up their legitimate phone number. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No, I’m not happy to give any personal information’ or ‘Sorry, but I don’t require your services at the present time’ or ‘Sorry, but I’m not comfortable giving or loaning you money’.
  • Be investigative –  if you are concerned about an uninvited phone call, email, text, letter or a personal contact, call ARA, a family member or a friend before you commit to anything.
  • If it’s an email, have a look at the sender’s address. If it looks odd and/or bears no resemblance to a company name, delete it immediately.

Check out this website to see how extensive scamming is in Australia. As you will see, in 2017 Australians lost $89m in ‘reported’ scams but the scary thing is that many scams are never reported :

Be careful out there

ARA News Desk

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