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Stop and check – Is this for real?

21 May 2018

Sometimes scams are obvious, sometimes they’re harder to spot. This week is Scams Awareness Week and we are urging all Australians to stop and check – ‘Is this for real?’

If you received a call out of the blue from someone saying you had a tax debt that you had to pay immediately or you’d be arrested - what would you think? If Telstra called you and said there were internet problems in your area and they needed remote access to your computer to help you, otherwise they would disconnect your service -what would you do?

These are good examples of threat-based impersonation scams. In 2017 the ACCC’s Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of scams like these.

Typically scammers pretend to be from a government agency or a well-known, trusted business. They often use threats to pressure or scare you into giving them your personal information and your money. They also may threaten you with fines, disconnecting your internet, arrest, court action or even deportation.

The scammers work hard to make sure their threats seem genuine and frightening! They make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong and that you must do what they say immediately, or suffer the consequences.

Many people have fallen victim to this type of scam. In 2017, over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2,800 people were coerced into sharing their personal information.


Protect yourself

If you’re contacted unexpectedly and threatened by someone that says they’re from a government agency or trusted business, always consider the possibility that it may be a scam—then stop and check ‘Is this for real?’

Here are some tips for you: 

  • When dealing with unexpected contact from government agencies or trusted businesses—whether over the phone, by email or through social media—always consider the possibility that it may be a scam. 
  • Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Hang up then check whether their story is real. You can verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search. Don’t use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent to you.
  • Never send money, give your bank account or credit card details, or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Don’t open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails and don’t click on links or open attachments—just delete them.
  • Never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue—whether through a phone call, pop up window or email—and even if they claim to be from a well-known company that you know and trust.

What to do if you have been scammed

If you’ve lost money or given personal information to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss:

  •  If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact your bank immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse a transaction, or close your account.
  • If you’ve given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE, Australia’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service. IDCARE can work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation, and support you through the process.
  • As scammers are often based overseas, it is extremely difficult to track them down or to take action against them. So take the time to warn your friends and family about these scams

More information

Read more about threat based impersonation scams, including case studies and more tips on staying safe.

Read more tips about protecting yourself from all types of scams.
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