Stay informed and alert to avoid falling prey to Christmas scammers
By now we should all recognise the scam phone calls: “Hello, I’m from Google, there’s something wrong with your internet connection and I can fix it over the phone if you just go to your computer and I’ll tell you what to do…”
Or the recorded phone call: “I am from the tax office and a warrant has been issued for your arrest for tax evasion unless you call this number immediately…”
“I am from Telstra and we need your help to catch a hacker who is trying to get into your computer and phone. Go and buy iTunes cards and we can use the numbers to catch the hacker…”
“This is Centrelink and we made a mistake, you are entitled to an extra payment but you need to pay a release fee in iTunes gift cards to receive the money…”
“I am from NBN and before we connect you to the network we just need some personal details to confirm your identity…”
Scammers particularly active prior to Christmas
It is hoped we quickly recognise the scams that target us regularly by phone, email or social media. Sadly, thousands of people are being caught by such scams.
Scammers are particularly active in the lead up to Christmas, when people are looking for gifts and investments for the year ahead. But sadly, it’s also a time when many of us, particularly the over 55s, can be vulnerable, lonely and susceptible to smooth-talking shonks.
Incidence of scams continues to rise from year to year
In 2016 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received more than 200,000 reports of scams, up 47 per cent on 2015, and losses totalled nearly $300 million. Shonky investment scams robbed the most, targeting people over the age of fifty-five.
Romance scams robbed $25.5 million from 4,100 people in 2016. Men and women were equally victims, with most aged between 45 and fifty-four.
Dating and romance scams are particularly cruel and are the fastest growing scams. For many people, the blow is not just the loss of money to fake romancers, but also the feeling of humiliation and fear of forming new relationships after being so abused.
Businesses can also fall victim to scammers
Last year nearly 6,000 businesses reported to the ACCC that they had been scammed, with losses totalling $3.8 million. The highest losses were to computer hacking, fake investment schemes, invoice scams and fake online traders.
Even though there have been some arrests of Australian-based scammers, the best way to defeat them is to be aware and not fall for their unscrupulous tactics.
Protect yourself against scams by staying informed
The ACCC’s Scamwatch website publishes regular updates about current scams and provides a free email alert service which enables any member of the public to sign up to receive notifications about the latest scams. You can also easily report a scam on the website.
The ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams warns consumers about the different ways scammers try to trick their victims and what you can do to protect yourself. The book can be ordered free of charge for delivery in hard copy to addresses within Australia. You can also download the book as a Word document or pdf or listen to audio of the text on the same web page.