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Scam Watch

Scams and Identity Theft – How to prevent yourself from falling victim

Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else’s identity, without consent, to gain benefits. A growing issue in Australia, scams and identity theft can affect people of all backgrounds, ages, and income levels. Trying to steal your money or personal information, scammers have become the modern day fraudsters. Knowing how to prevent yourself from falling victim to these people is key. 

Scammers contact thousands of people every day – by phone, email, social media – so there’s a good chance you’ll be contacted one day if you haven’t already. 

When it comes to scams, being aware is essential – prevention is better than a cure. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is very difficult to recover lost money from a scam, and even more difficult to recover your identity if your personal information is stolen. The number one way you can prevent scams is by talking about them to spread awareness. 

Scams Awareness Week

Scams Awareness Week is an annual campaign that runs from the 8th – 12th of November, dedicated to raising awareness of scams. This Scams Awareness Week, the aim is to encourage everyone to start a conversation about scams to reduce stigma and help people recognise a scam sooner. 

Unfortunately, scams cost Australian consumers, businesses and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each year and cause serious emotional harm to victims and their families. As of 31 August 2021, Scamwatch received over 190,000 reports with losses of over $192 million so far this year. 

This is largely because they look very real and catch you off guard when you’re least expecting it. Scams are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, new products and major events to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal details. 

Investments Scams Cause the Most Financial Loss

Investment scams cause the most financial loss in Australia. 

Scamwatch reported that over $96 million has been lost so far this year due to investment scams. 

Cryptocurrency scams tend to be the most common type of investment scam and represent more than 50% of the current losses. 

Often the initial amount taken is low (between $250 and $500). But then the scammers begin to pressure the person to invest more over time before claiming the money is gone or ceasing communication and blocking access to the funds. 

While all age groups are falling victim to investment scams, the over 65s have lost the most with $25million stolen.

What you can do to prevent scams

Scammers are everywhere so it is likely that you or someone you know has encountered one. 

The number one way people can avoid and prevent scams is by speaking up and raising awareness about them. Many people feel too ashamed that they fell for a scam therefore never report it. Talking about scams and identity theft brings it to peoples attention and removes the stigma. 

Scammers go to great lengths to appear trustworthy and legitimate so it’s understandable that many people fall victim to their sly and cunning lies. There are, however, some things you can keep an eye out for to ensure you are protecting yourself from scams and identity theft. 

Be aware

Firstly, just being aware that scams exist is so important. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether over the phone, email, in person or social media, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Just think, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. 

Ignore Suspicious Links or Messages

Do not open any suspicious messages you receive, especially if it is asking you to open a link or attachment in an email – delete them. If you’re unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as an online search or phone book. If you are still unsure, call the organisation they claimed to be working for. 

Never give a scammer remote access to your computer

Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or to install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus used to get access to your passwords and personal details. Even if they say they are from a well known company like Telstra – hang up – no legitimate company will ever ask you to do that. 

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

Unfortunately, if you’ve lost money it’s unlikely you’ll get it back. However, there are steps you can take to ensure you are protected and do not fall victim in the future. 

  1. Report scams to the ACCC’s Scamwatch to ensure nobody else gets hurt by these scammers
  2. If you believe you have unwittingly shared sensitive financial information, call the ATO Scam Hotline on 1800 008 540, or visit their scam webpage
  3. Contact IDCARE: if you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, act quickly. Get in contact with IDCARE and recover your identity 

Getting scammed can be a very confronting experience, even if you didn’t lose any money. If you are someone who is experiencing anxiety, emotional concerns or distress about scams, contact Lifeline or Beyond Blue. 

If you would like to find out any more information on scams or identity theft, please don’t hesitate to contact us today, and let our friendly team guide you through it. 

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