Australians are urged to be on the lookout for threat-based impersonation scams by taking a moment to ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’.
Scams Awareness Week is an initiative of the Scams Awareness Network.
How these scams work
Scammers may pretend to be from a government agency, a well-known company like an energy or telecommunications provider, Australia Post, a bank or police. Their aim is to scare you into parting with your money or personal information and if you don’t, they threaten you with fines, disconnecting your internet, taking you to court, arrest or even deportation.
The categories with the most threat-based impersonation scam reports in 2017 were:
- Threats to life, arrest or other: Threats to life, arrest or other involve demands by scammers to pay money that you supposedly owe and threats if you do not cooperate.
- Remote access scams: Remote access scams try to convince you that you have a computer or internet problem and that you need to buy new software to fix the problem.
- Phishing: Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out your personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.
- Identity theft: Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else's identity to steal money or gain other benefits.
- False billing: False billing scams request you or your business to pay fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies that you did not order.
Tips to protect yourself
- If you’re contacted unexpectedly and threatened by someone who says they’re from a government agency or trusted business, always consider the possibility that it may be a scam – then stop and check if it’s for real.
- Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller and don’t respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages asking you to call someone back. If you do, the scammers may increase their intimidation and attempts to get your money.
- If you’re unsure whether a call or email is genuine, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search, then get in touch with them to ask if they contacted you. Don’t use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent to you.
- If you’re still unsure, speak to a family member or friend about what's happened.
- Never give money, bank account or credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust – and never by email or over the phone.
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as with gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin.
- 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 you’re contacted 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 like Telstra.