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SECURITY

Six common scams and how to protect yourself against them

22 December 2023

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), scams cost Australians a record $3.1 billion in 2022.1

It can be very hard to tell the difference between a genuine person and a scammer trying to deceive you. But there are some tell-tale signs of scams that you can look out for. We’ve listed common scams and how you can protect yourself against them.

What are the most common scams?

Impersonation scams

These usually involve a scammer contacting you over the phone and pretending to be from a trusted organisation – for example, a bank, the police or the government. They can even pretend to be one of your loved ones.

Impersonation scammers usually request urgent actions. They try to trick you into providing personal and important information or transferring money. Sometimes, they do this under the pretence of “keeping your money safe” somewhere while the issue is under investigation.

Scamwatch received more than 14,600 reports of bank impersonation scams in 2022, resulting in more than $20 million in losses.2     

Remote access scams

Scammers can call or text you to try to access your computer remotely. They might pretend they’re from a computer company, internet provider, your bank's security department or another business. The reason for the contact is generally to offer technical support for a problem.

This gives scammers an ideal excuse to ask for remote access to your computer. Once they have control, they can reach your personal files, emails, and apps. They might even install harmful software.

They may also push you to buy software or services to ‘fix’ the problem and get your bank or card details.

Don't allow remote access or software downloads requested by callers. If you ever receive a suspicious call, hang up and call the business directly to confirm if it was a legitimate call.

Buying and selling scams

Buying or selling something on online marketplaces? Knowing how to spot a scam might help to ensure a smooth transaction.

Scammers will try to trick you into thinking you’re dealing with a genuine buyer or seller.

When posing as a seller, scammers could ask you to pay for an item that may not exist and won’t be delivered.

If they pretend to be a buyer, they may say they overpaid you and request a refund. Watch out! They may even provide fake payment receipts via email or text to support their claim. 

Romance scams

Don’t assume that someone you met online is who they say they are. Scammers go to great lengths to convince you the relationship is real. They then can use the connection to ask for gifts, money or investments.

Scamwatch data reveals more than $40 million was lost to romance scams in 2022.3

If an online relationship develops quickly or you feel uncomfortable about any aspect of how it has developed, listen to your gut. While the relationship may seem real, romance scammers are experts in stealing your heart and your money.

Phishing scams

Scammers claim to be from a trusted organisation when they text or email you. The message usually has a fake link to update your details or make a payment. But scammers are creative, and new story variations always pop up.

They usually want you to provide or confirm your personal details or transfer money to their account.

Phishing messages can look genuine. They can have the company’s logo and branding – and may even appear on the SMS thread of your bank or other trusted company. They can take you to fake websites that look legitimate but have a slightly different address. For example, ‘mybank.com.au’ can become ‘my-bank.com.au’.

Never click on links you receive in such messages unless you are expecting it. At Suncorp Bank, for example, we are phasing out sending links to our clients via text. Go to the company’s original website to confirm your details or make payments.

Investment scams

Have you ever heard about a new investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true? It probably is.

Beware of investment scammers who may approach you with exclusive opportunities. They may use convincing customer case studies to lure you in, but there is no genuine investment. Sadly, these scammers will disappear with your money, leaving you with nothing in return.

Before making any investment, research the firm offering the investment and never feel pressured to participate in any opportunity. Investment scams caused 66% of all financial losses reported to Scamwatch in 2022, according to an ACCC keynote from March 2023.

How to protect yourself against scams

There are some strategies that could protect you from falling victim to a scammer. Have a look at some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ when it comes to protecting yourself against scams. 

Never take actions that could put you at risk

  • Scammers will use a sense of urgency to make you feel as if you have to follow their instructions.
  • Do not act on instructions to transfer funds even if the caller states they are from your bank.
  • Never share website login details or one-time passcodes.
  • Never send money to someone you’ve only met online, no matter what story they may tell you. If you feel pressured to do so, look for support – talking to someone you trust can be a good starting point.
  • If you’re selling something online, ensure the payment is completed before you ship the item to the buyer.

Keep on the lookout for scam calls and messages

  • When you receive emails or texts, look out for spelling and grammatical errors. With emails, check the name of the sender. And always be careful about taking any actions requested in the message until you’re certain the message isn’t fraudulent.
  • Don’t engage with calls or messages you think might be scams. If a call seems suspicious, hang up and don’t reply to suspicious emails or texts.
  • Don’t click on links or open attachments from emails claiming to be from your bank or another trusted organisation asking you to update or verify your details.
  • If you’re not certain about a message you receive that appears to be from a reputable organisation, contact the organisation on a publicly listed number to verify the message.

Access important websites, such as Internet Banking, very carefully

  • Access secure websites directly from your browser’s URL field (i.e., where you type in a website address) or from trusted search engine results. Don’t access them from links sent to you via email or text.
  • Keep your computer and phone/tablet operating systems, web browsers and apps up-to-date

If you receive a scam message or call, you can help protect others by reporting it to Scamwatch.

Sometimes, even the most vigilant person can become a scam victim. Remember, scammers are constantly inventing new ways to trick people into compromising their security.

Watch out for the latest scams on Suncorp Bank’s scam alert page and on Scamwatch.

 

Check Suncorp Bank’s latest scam alerts

 

Read more:

1 ACCC calls for united front as scammers steal over $3bn from Australians

2 https://www.accc.gov.au/about-us/media/speeches/keynote-address-at-afr-banking-summit-2023

Have a heart-to-heart with loved ones to help stop scams this Valentine's Day | ACCC

Information current as of 16 October 2023. The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.