Scams have become extremely sophisticated over the past few years. Telephone and email scams regularly circulate in Australia, and emails in particular can look exactly like an organisation's real emails but contain hidden links to fake websites. Phone scammers also often know a lot of information about you which leads you to believe they're who they say they are.

Common types of scams

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The Grandparent scam

Imagine being awakened by a phone call in the middle of the night. It's someone crying and claiming to be your "grandchild" asking for money because of an accident. Of course, you want to help your loved one so you do whatever you can in this emergency situation. In reality no accident has occurred and the money you sent is stolen by a scammer.

  • Emergency scams play off peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help friends and family in need. Verify the emergency and resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Guard yourself against the Grandparent Scam by asking a question that only your grandchild would know, such as the name of your pet, then verify with other family members - even though the person on the other end of the line will beg you to keep it a secret.
  • Emergency scams play off of peoples’ emotions and desire to help. Scammers impersonate and make up urgent situations - I’ve been arrested, I’m in the hospital - and target friends and family with urgent pleas for money. 

Video: The Grandparent Scheme plays off people's emotions

The Employment Scam

Consumer frauds targeting job seekers are flourishing, particularly online during tough economic times. They generally start with a too-good-to-be-true offer such as an opportunity to earn thousands of dollars a month while working from home, and end with consumers out of a ‘job’ and money sent to pay for the opportunity.
Use this video and social media messages to educate members about the Employment scam.

  • Whether you’ve newly graduated and are looking for your first job, or you just need a new gig - beware of Employment Scams. They generally start with a too good to be true offer - earn money, no experience needed, work from home - and end with consumers out of a ‘job’ and out of money.
  • Being paid to shop – a dream come true, right? Not so fast. While legitimate mystery shopper programs pay people to shop and provide feedback on their experience, there are a number of scams out there that use this as a cover. It pays to be ultra-skeptical.
  • Get-rich-quick schemes sound too good to be true. There’s never a free lunch. Be very careful if you recently retired or gained money and you’re looking for a safe investment. You could be a very attractive target for a crook.

Vidieo: Job seekers hunt for jobs, scammers look for victims

The Relationship Scam

You meet someone online. Then the “relationship” progresses over time; you email, talk on the phone and trade pictures. You begin to make plans to meet or you may even begin to talk about marriage. As the relationship continues, the requests start to change. You may be asked to send money to help with a visit to a sick uncle, for example. The first transfer is usually small but the requests keep coming, and growing - his/her daughter needs an emergency surgery, he/she needs an airfare to come for a visit, etc. The payback promises are empty; you have sent your money and your money’s gone and so is your online love.

  • Romance scams try to lower your defenses by appealing to your compassionate side. After the scammer has won your heart with glamorous photos or small gifts, your money will become the target, not your affection.
  • After all these years, you think you’ve met your perfect match and all it took was a couple of emails & clicks of the mouse. Now you just need to send them money for a plane ticket so that you could meet. Sounds like a classic love story, but really it’s just a classic scam.

 Vidio: Fraudsters cash in by targeting people looking for love

The Internet Purchase Scam

People looking to sell a used couch, electronics, or even a used car look to online classifieds. They’re easy to use and give sellers the opportunity to connect with lots of potential buyers.

However, scammers impersonating potential buyers troll these sites looking for victims they can scam. The scammer tells the seller via email they have added courier/transportation costs in the payment they have made online to the seller and the payment will not be released until the seller sends the money back using a money transfer company. The seller sends back the money as requested and the scammer never releases the payment so the seller is out the money that they sent.
Roles can also be reversed where the scammer preys on buyers who bid on items using an online auction website or service. The buyer sends the money for the item, but after the money is sent the buyer never receives the purchase.

  • Looking for a furry friend online? Watch out - scammers continue to use anything cute & cuddly to pull on peoples’ heart strings and get them to part with their money.
  • Everyone loves the ease of online auctions, but be aware of the potential for fraud, scams and other sneaky activities. While many seem like common sense, sometimes it's easy to get carried away with ads that seem ideal.
  • Imagine this - die-hard fans travel from near and far with shiny tickets to a major event, only to realise the tickets are fake when they are turned away at the door. Remember to buy from trusted sources and sites to avoid being a victim of fraud.

Video: Avoid scams when buying and selling online

The Computer Virus Scam

You receive an anonymous call warning you that your computer has a virus. The caller claims they are from technical support and will offer to fix the problem. In some instances, the caller will direct you to download a software which is actually a spyware that gives the caller remote access to your computer including records and passwords. The caller then shows you where the alleged virus is on your computer then will sell you a six or twelve month computer service contract to protect your computer. If you agree and provide your credit card details, you’ve just been scammed. There wasn’t any virus in the first place and you’ve given access to your computer records and passwords as well as credit card details to the scammer

  • Were you contacted by a “tech” claiming to have detected a virus or security threat on your computer or device and, for a fee, can log-in remotely to correct the issue? This computer virus scam is carried out by hackers trying to steal money, sensitive passwords or even damage computers with malicious software. So, if you receive an unsolicited notification asking you to "validate" or "confirm" your personal details by clicking on a link or opening an attachment, or even get an unexpected pop-up asking if you want to allow software to run - Delete!
  • Everyone worries about keeping their computer secure. But those pop-up warnings on your screen offering to help clean up your computer could actually be exposing your sensitive data to scammers. Never give control of your device to a third party from an unsolicited message or who calls you out of the blue. No legitimate company initiates contact, then asks for your password or credit card information to fix a problem only you would be aware of.
  • Several months after the purchase of “tech support services”, someone might call to ask if you were happy with the service. When you say you weren’t, the scammer offers a refund or may say that the company is going out of business and providing refunds for “warranties” or other services. In either case, the scammer eventually asks for your bank or credit card accounts. They might even ask for remote access to your computer to help you fill out necessary forms. But instead of refunding you, the scammer has a hidden agenda, stealing your money and other personal details.

What should you do if you receive a scam call or email?

  • Hang up immediately or delete the email. If you are unsure if it was a scam, you should independently locate contact details for the organisation the scammer claimed to be representing and telephone to directly verify if the call originated there (don't use any website addresses or phone numbers they have provided to check authenticity).
  • Be suspicious of anyone offering any refund you weren't expecting, especially one that's worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  • Never provide or confirm personal information, or send money to someone unless you are absolutely certain of who they are.
  • Check website URLs before clicking on links within an email to make sure you have the legitimate website.

Be wary of emails appearing to be from your bank, Australian Tax Office, PayPal and others requesting you enter your details to be eligible for a refund or to reset your account after a hacking attempt. Navigate to your account the way you normally would, not from the link in the email, and contact your branch, the ATO or PayPal to verify its authenticity.

From time to time you might receive an email from us with a link to our online banking, such as if we mention a new feature - always check it's directing to and there's a padlock icon in the address bar.

If you think you may have been affected, report it to your local police and branch immediately and phone the ACCC Info Centre direct on 1300 795 995 during normal business hours to report the scam.