Scam alert – tips and tricks

Ohh, so easy. Pic credit to ACCC.

Don’t make it this easy. Pic credit to ACCC.

‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.’

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But every day, enormous numbers of people are being scammed out of their money by increasingly sophisticated scams. Scams are as much a part of our lives as the internet these days. The rise of online activities have provided a new forum for scammers. Although fraudsters have been around since the snake chatted with Eve, never before have they been able to reach so many people, with so much anonymity. There is very little chance of getting your money back once it has left our shores. Even crossing state borders makes things difficult.

Scamming is a job for some people. It is how they make their living. They might put in eight hours a day looking for victims. In the same way anyone learning a profession becomes better with experience, some of these people are extremely good at their ‘job’. There is nothing personal about them targeting a particular victim. They don’t care if you are a pensioner/ single mum/ disabled/ a police officer. There is no mercy – only money.

If you have been scammed, don’t be too embarrassed. These people are professionals. You weren’t the first, you won’t be the last. People often won’t talk about it because they are embarrassed that they got sucked in. But it is quite common – I have even had a police officer colleague lose several hundred dollars through fraud. Be sure to learn from your mistake. You may be targeted for a ‘follow-up scam’, where the scammers will have another crack at you.

One of the biggest problems is people want to believe what they are told. They want to strike it lucky in the lottery, they want to sell their car at asking price, they want to find love.

There are things to watch out for. The minute anyone asks you to pay by Western Union money transfer – run for the hills. They will have some plausible excuse as to why the destination address is India or Romania. It is a cash transaction – there is no comeback for the victim. That is why it is the payment method of choice for scammers. Beware of this particularly on Gumtree and eBay.

Don’t be scared to back out of a sale or transaction if you start getting a bad feeling about it. A fraudster will try and guilt you into following through, trying to use your morals and scruples against you, even though they themselves have none. Seek help. Google it. Strange message come in on your mobile phone? Tap the sender’s number into Google. Email you don’t know if you can trust? Tap it into Google. Very often, the same number or email address has been used to scam other people who kindly put it on the internet to warn others.

An email appeared in my junk mail today. Apparently the Accountant-General of the Central Bank in Nigeria has selected little old me to assist with the transfer of US$20 million in unclaimed funds. My share will be 35%. Yes, I would like to receive $7 million. Heck, I’d settle for $700. But I have taken my own advice and googled ‘Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla’, the gentleman who purportedly sent me the email. He has gone to the trouble of setting up a Linked-In account, a Facebook account and a fake bank listing. But then all the scam warnings start popping up. You might think no one would fall for something so blatant, but these ‘Nigerian 419’ scams have been around for years now, and still persist, so it’s clearly worth someone’s time and effort.

With anonymity, there is also security. These people make blatant and repeated attempts because it is likely nothing will happen to them. Once your money has disappeared into some third world country, it’s gone, and the person who took it will never be identified, caught or punished. These people have a complete lack of scruples or empathy. They will do whatever it takes to get money. Your money.

There are more scams than I could list and there are people who are right now dreaming up new ones. Have a look at www.scamwatch.gov.au or your local office of fair trade. If you are a victim of a scam, you can report if to Scamwatch or through a police website online reporting service. Your information may help stop someone else from falling victim.

Remember – ‘Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.’

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24 thoughts on “Scam alert – tips and tricks

  1. It always amazes me how many people get caught out with some of the scams but recently I almost got caught out with a scam looking for a job. I applied with my resume and then was sent an application form with further questions, most fairly resonable after a job offer but not before. I think a lot of eldery lonely people or just people who feel rejected by society get caught up with these scams because it is what they so desperately want.

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    • Exactly! People are prepared to ignore things that their intuition might be warning them about because they are hoping to get what they want. Scammers play on that. Glad you were on your toes! Thanks for your comments.

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  2. It is scary how legit some of the phishing emails can look – the advice to NEVER click a link from an email is a good one.

    I got a call from the ATO a couple of years back, could I verify my identity as they needed to speak to me about some unclaimed super? I told them NO but I would phone them back. Turned out it was legit but you just can’t be too careful.

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

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    • If you are unsure who you are talking to, always ask to call them back. Look the number up yourself and phone. We encourage people to do that to us if they have any doubt they are talking to police. Yes, some of these scammers put an enormous amount of time into making their email look extremely convincing. Thanks for your comments.

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  3. I have a couple try to scam me on the phone in the last week. One said he was from the Australian Government and wanted to pay me back my bank fees (wouldn’t that be nice!) to the tune of $7,000. I asked him to verify which bank I was listed under and he quickly hung up. Then just yesterday I had a woman saying she was from Telstra and my internet was interfering with their servers. I said I don’t have a computer or the internet..she quickly hung up too. It’s sad that people do fall for these things, and I can see the elderly, who don’t know much about how the internet works, falling for a lot of the ones that come through on the phone.

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    • It’s constant, isn’t it. We regularly get the phone call about Windows on our computer not working – we have a Mac computer. Depending on my mood, I sometimes string them along a little bit to waste their time and money… Thanks for your comments.

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  4. I don’t open anything I don’t know or that looks dodgy. I have had PayPal emails from people saying I have paid someone through my PayPal account but when I look at the email, I know it’s a scam and I open a new browser to check my account. I did once have $200 taken out of my PayPal account and the account was closed without my authority but because I got the emails I rang PayPal straight away and they were able follow through who had taken my money and reimburse me. I now change passwords and make them really technical as to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This is a really good article about how easy it is to get scammed. I’ve never thought to google the email sender to check their history.

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  5. Going with your gut is great advice. I always have this sixth sense that tells me when something’s not right. I worry for my Grandma’s though who believe in the good in everyone.

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  6. I had a friend lose a substantial amount through scamming, and that was awful to watch, because we all guessed it was happening, but it they wouldn’t listen.
    I had a fake phone call the other week and that really annoyed me, because I wanted to say ‘do you think I’m stupid?’ Clearly they do!

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  7. It is frightening! You hear about so many people being caught out and losing their savings, devastating. especially trusting elderly people..
    I always think imagine if these scammers and the people who come up with things like computer viruses actually put all that skill, cleverness and energy into good things!

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  8. Hubby was looking on carsguide and a car led to an ebay page(fake) to send money via Western unions transfer. I am so glad I looked into it further. There is an ebay check you can do to see if it is fake or not. It saved a friends daughter too when she mentioned it to me when they considered buying a car too, later on. It is unfortunate, but there are people out there to scam you out of your hard earned money without a skerrick of morality.

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  9. I’m constantly amazed at how my, seemingly “quick witted / with it” but aging parents are almost fooled by the regular scams and frequent scam phone calls. I figure it’s an age thing, that they don’t know any better that “Windows” is not going to call them about their computer, etc etc. Don’t even want to imagine what sophisticated scams will be around when I’m the old person finding the scam calls potentially credible…!

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  10. Fantastic warning post. So many middle-aged people are susceptible to scams. I used to think it was only the really elderly or intellectually disabled that got roped in, but I’m hearing all the time of friends parents in their 50s being tricked. Thank goodness the younger generation are more clued in. But the scams will continue to evolve. So it’s important to get the word out! Well done.

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    • Unfortunately, the younger generation are also being sucked in sometimes. The scammers can be extremely persuasive and I’m sure will evolve new methods as time goes on… thanks for your comments.

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