Scamwatch: Think Covid-19 Scams are a thing of the past? Think again

Every year, thousands of Australians are targeted by scams, whether it be online, via phone, mail or even in person. Australian Community Media has compiled a list of current scams identified on sites such as scamwatch.gov.au and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's website dedicated to informing people about fraudulent and dishonest activities:

Renewed push on COVID-19 scams

  • People are being urged to be cautious and remain alert to coronavirus-related scams.According to Australian government website Scamwatch, scammers are hoping people have let their guards down and is warning people not to provide personal, banking or superannuation details to strangers.
  • Scammers are pretending to be government agencies providing information on COVID-19 through text messages and emails 'phishing' for information. These contain malicious links and attachments designed to steal personal and financial information.Messages may appear to come from 'GOV' and 'myGov', with a malicious link to more information on COVID-19.
  • Scammers are also pretending to be Government agencies and other entities offering help with applications for financial assistance or payments for staying home.

'Tis the season for scammers

PAWSOME PRESENTS: The top 10 products for online shopping and classifieds scams include, pets, shoes, vehicles, phones, laptops/ /computer/ drones/ iPads, clothing, toys, games/ Nintendo/ X-box/ Jigsaw, barbecues and handbags and bags.

PAWSOME PRESENTS: The top 10 products for online shopping and classifieds scams include, pets, shoes, vehicles, phones, laptops/ /computer/ drones/ iPads, clothing, toys, games/ Nintendo/ X-box/ Jigsaw, barbecues and handbags and bags.

  • Scamwatch is warning Australians to be careful when buying gifts this holiday season with losses to online shopping scams increasing by 42 per cent this year
  • Scammers are now targeting people doing their Christmas shopping, including in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
  • Scamwatch has received over 12,000 reports of online shopping scams so far this year, with almost $7 million in reported losses.
  • Losses on classified websites, such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, have increased by 60 per cent this year, to $4.5 million.
  • The top 10 products for online shopping and classifieds scams include, pets, shoes, vehicles, phones, laptops/ /computer/ drones/ iPads, clothing, toys, games/ Nintendo/ X-box/ Jigsaw, barbecues and handbags and bags.

Holiday accommodation scams

  • With state borders opening and restrictions easing in time for school holidays, consumers are being reminded to be wary of holiday accommodation scams that may surface this time of year.
  • Holiday makers should keep an eye out for fake accommodation vouchers, scam travel clubs and scammers asking you to pay upfront deposits for properties which aren't actually available for rent.
  • Always check travel offers are legitimate before you sign up, search the wording of the offer or the company name on the web as many scams can be identified this way.
  • Before buying holiday or accommodation vouchers check with the hotel that they are genuine and will be honoured during the period that you intend on using them.
  • Never provide your credit card details and other personal information to someone you don't know or trust.

Have you been scammed?

Have you been a victim of a recent scam? Australian Community Media is interested in publishing first-hand accounts from those who have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators. If you're interested in sharing your story as a warning to others, contact Anna Wolf at anna.wolf@austcommunitymedia.com.au.

MESSAGE RECEIVED: Australia Post will never email or text asking for personal information, financial information or payment.

MESSAGE RECEIVED: Australia Post will never email or text asking for personal information, financial information or payment.

Parcel delivery scams

  • Australia Post has been made aware of fraudulent emails that are circulating advising customers that they must pay unpaid shipping costs for a package and prompting them to click on a link to find the shipment.
  • The link will lead to a fake Australia Post website designed to steal your personal and financial information.
  • Australia Post will never email or text asking for personal information, financial information or payment.
  • If you believe you have sent any personal or financial information to a scam email address or entered it into a scam website and are worried that your identity may have been stolen, call ID CARE on 1800 595 160 - Australia and New Zealand's national identity and cyber support service.

Social Media Scams

Think before you click: Some scams take advantage of people's natural curiosity, such as the 'see who has viewed your profile' scam.

Think before you click: Some scams take advantage of people's natural curiosity, such as the 'see who has viewed your profile' scam.

  • Research website Comparitech.com has warned of scams targeting social media users.
  • The "See who's viewed your profile": takes advantage of the curiosity of Facebook users and might pop up as an ad while browsing the site. You'll be prompted to download an app with the promise of being able to see who has viewed your profile. Facebook doesn't actually give this information out, even to third-party applications. All you're actually doing is handing over access to your Facebook account, including your personal details and possibly banking information.
  • Fake celebrity news: involves a clickbait-style headline on Facebook relaying some fake celebrity news, such as the death of a well-known star or a new relationship in Hollywood. Once you click, you're prompted to enter your Facebook credentials to view the article, thus giving criminals full access to your account.
  • Impersonation scam: scammers create an exact replica of a user's account. They can then reach out to your friends and family with friend or follow requests and once connected, pose as you.

Online shopping scams

Scammers post fake classified ads, auction listings, and run bogus websites. If you get caught by a scammer you will not only lose your money but will also never receive the item you were trying to purchase.

Scammers post fake classified ads, auction listings, and run bogus websites. If you get caught by a scammer you will not only lose your money but will also never receive the item you were trying to purchase.

  • Shoppers looking for Christmas gifts online should be cautious if the advertised price of an item online looks unusually low.
  • Scam ads quote goods at much lower prices than similar items on the same or other sites.
  • Scammers post fake classified ads, auction listings, and run bogus websites. If you get caught by a scammer you will not only lose your money but will also never receive the item you were trying to purchase.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order or international wire transfer. Scammers will ask you to pay outside of the website's official payment systems.
  • Beware, some scammers will send scam emails which appear to be from official payment companies requesting payment, others will direct you to fake payment websites which look genuine but have a different URL.

Threat-based scams

Australians have lost over $8.8 million to threat based scams so far this year, and young people are reporting the highest losses.

Australians have lost over $8.8 million to threat based scams so far this year, and young people are reporting the highest losses.

Australians have lost over $8.8 million to threat based scams so far this year, and young people are reporting the highest losses.

  • Threat based scammers often pretend to be from government departments and rely on fear, intimidation and people's instinct to comply with authority, to scam victims. These scams are mainly phone-based and impersonate various officials, such as police, ATO officers or government investigators.
  • So far this year Scamwatch has received more than 18,000 reports of such scams, an increase of 40 per cent compared to reports across all of 2019.
  • Chinese authority scams comprised 74 per cent of all losses to threat-based scams, more than $6.5 million. These scams target Mandarin-speakers in Australian and impersonate authorities such as the Chinese embassy, police or other government officials.
  • Scamwatch has recorded an increase in robo-calls impersonating government agencies, such as the Department of Home Affairs or Services Australia, which claim the victim is under investigation and to 'Dial 1' to speak to an investigator.

Consumers can also download the ACCC's Little Black Book of Scams, which has been translated into 10 languages.

You can follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.

Rental scams

WATCH OUT: Some scammers will even impersonate real estate agents and organise fake inspections, victims will then arrive to discover the property doesn't exist or is currently occupied.

WATCH OUT: Some scammers will even impersonate real estate agents and organise fake inspections, victims will then arrive to discover the property doesn't exist or is currently occupied.

Australians have lost over $300,000 to rental and accommodation scams this year, an increase of 76 per cent compared to the same time last year, according to Scamwatch.gov.au

  • These scams target people seeking new rental accommodation by offering fake rental properties to convince people into handing over money or personal information.
  • The scammer will post advertisements on real estate or classified websites or target people who have posted on social media that they are looking for a room.
  • After the victim responds, the scammer will request an upfront deposit to secure the property or phish for personal information through a 'tenant application form', promising to provide the keys after the payment or information is provided.
  • The scammer may come up with excuses for further payments and the victim often only realises they have been scammed when the keys don't arrive and the scammer cuts off contact.
  • Some scammers will even impersonate real estate agents and organise fake inspections, victims will then arrive to discover the property doesn't exist or is currently occupied.

Amazon Prime scam

  • The Australian Communications and Media Authority has receive reports this month of scammers calling people and impersonating staff from entertainment and media subscription service Amazon Prime.
  • Be wary of callers claiming you owe money to Amazon and that funds will be taken from your bank account if you do not act immediately.
  • Scammers may also ask you to go online to confirm your personal details or Amazon account information.
  • Amazon does not ask customers to disclose or verify personal or account information over the phone.
  • If a call sounds suspicious, hang up immediately. Never give personal information over the phone unless you can independently confirm who is calling.

Fake digital health calls

  • The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), responsible for the My Health Record system, has receive reports of fraudulent telephone calls from an individual or organisation claiming to be a representative of the agency.
  • The caller says they are calling from the "digital health agency" to enrol people to get a "health record".
  • ADHA will not telephone you with an offer to enrol you for a My Health Record.
  • If you receive a call from someone offering to enrol you for a "health record", hang up the call and report it to scamwatch.gov.au.
  • If you have shared your Medicare number with an unknown caller, report this to Services Australia who will place your details on a watch list to monitor for any compromise or misuse of your Medicare record. Email reportascam@servicesaustralia.gov.au or phone 1800 941 126.

COVID phishing scam

  • In the past week, the ACCC's Scamwatch has received more than 50 reports of people receiving text messages claiming there's a COVID-19 case nearby.
  • This message states "we've detected a possible COVID-19 case near your neighbourhood" and includes a 'map' link. This link is malicious and is an attempt to access your personal information. This is a phishing scam.
  • Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.
  • Scamwatch reminds readers to not click on links in unexpected messages - just delete them.
  • Not sure if a text is legitimate? Contact the relevant agency using details you've sourced yourself or visit the official website via your browser.

Ignore TFN call

  • Scammers are calling Australians and trying to convince them that their Tax File Number has been misused and that they need to pay to avoid jail time. If you receive a call like this, ignore it.
  • Report any scam message you receive to scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam

How to spot a scam

  • The email or text message does not address you by your proper name, and may contain typing errors and grammatical mistakes.
  • The website address does not look like the address you usually use and is requesting details the legitimate site does not normally ask for.
  • You notice new icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is.
Australian Taxation Office

Australian Taxation Office

Fake tax debt

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) said it is concerned about the increasing number of people paying fake tax debt scammers. The tax authority said:

  • Scammers pretending to be from the ATO are contacting members of the community through phone calls and text messages telling them that they have a tax debt and that if they don't pay it straight away they will be arrested.
  • These scammers will often request payment through unusual methods, such as cryptocurrency, pre-paid credit cards or gift cards, and will try to keep people on the line until they have paid.
  • If you receive a phone call, text message or voicemail like this, don't send payment or provide any personal information. Hang up and delete the message.
  • The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest or demand payment through unusual means.
  • If you're not sure if it's the ATO contacting you, phone them on 1800 008 540 to check.
  • Report the scam via ato.gov.au/reportascam
The email the Commonwealth Bank is warning customers is a hoax.

The email the Commonwealth Bank is warning customers is a hoax.

Commonwealth Bank hoax

The banking institution said it is aware that some customers had received an email asking them to verify their account. It is a hoax.

How to tell it's not a real email from the Commonwealth Bank:

  • The email states "due to recent activities on your account, we have placed a temporary suspension untill [sic] you verify your account. For your security, follow the steps below" and features a yellow 'Click Here' button.
  • The email is signed off by the 'Bank Fraud Department Email Operations Team'.

What to do if you receive this email:

  • The bank said if you or anyone you know has received this email, delete it.
  • If you have clicked the link and provided your details, phone the Commonwealth Bank's customer service team on 132 221

Netflix scam

Netflix is warning of an email and text scam requesting people's username, password or payment method.

The email tells subscribers that their monthly payment was unsuccessful and they need to re-enter their bank details. It threatens to close their account if a payment isn't made.

Indicators that prove the email is a scam:

  • The email has a number of grammatical typos including "methode" instead of method, and a lower-case "please" at the start of a sentence.
  • The subject line is bilingual
  • The first line of the email will refer to you as "customer" as opposed to your real name

Netflix says it will never ask for personal information over email, nor request payment through a third party vendor or website.

Should you click on a link in a 'dodgy' email or text, Netflix advises that you:

  • Change your password and update your password on any websites where you use the same email and password combination
  • Contact your financial institution if you entered any payment information, as it may have been compromised
  • Forward the message to phishing@netflix.com

Immigration scams

HANG UP: Scammers may try to pressure you by calling incessantly and harassing you, even threatening to send the police to your house. Simply hang up and do not respond.

HANG UP: Scammers may try to pressure you by calling incessantly and harassing you, even threatening to send the police to your house. Simply hang up and do not respond.

Scammers target migrants and temporary visa holders claiming to be from the 'Department of Immigration'.

  • They will claim there are problems with their immigration paperwork or visa status and they need to pay a fee to correct the problem and avoid deportation.
  • These scammers often glean personal information from social media, making the demands seem more legitimate.
  • They may make threats of the arrest of loved ones, or claim they have already been arrested or detained. They demand payment through wire transfers or iTunes gift cards.
  • Scammers may try to pressure you by calling incessantly and harassing you, even threatening to send the police to your house. Simply hang up and do not respond.

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.
  • Your business might be sent an invoice, letter or invitation to be listed in a bogus trade directory or to renew your website domain name.
  • The scammer might phone you out of the blue to confirm details of an advertisement booking or insist you've ordered certain goods or services.
  • These scams take advantage of the fact the person handling the administrative duties for the business may not know whether any advertising or promotional activities have actually been requested.
  • Many email-based ransomware scams use fake bills as attachments to infect your computer.

Solar panel scams

BE WISE: The scammer may pressure you into making a hurried decision claiming that the false grants or rebate schemes are due to close soon.

BE WISE: The scammer may pressure you into making a hurried decision claiming that the false grants or rebate schemes are due to close soon.

  • You receive an unexpected call, email or house visit from someone offering either free solar panels or a government rebate/grant on solar panels following an upfront payment.
  • Scammers may pose as government representatives or mention government affiliation or programs.
  • The scammer may ask for bank account details or for a fee to be paid before the rebate/grant can be processed. In some instances, these promised rebates have not been paid.
  • The scammer may pressure you into making a hurried decision claiming that the false grants or rebate schemes are due to close soon.
  • In some instances the scammer may offer free solar panels in exchange for placing advertising signs on your property for a number of months. They will request an upfront fee and claim to repay it over the duration of the advertising.

Protect yourself

  • Australian Government departments will never phone or email you asking you to pay upfront amounts in order to claim a rebate.
  • Never confirm or provide personal details over the phone or by email unless you initiated the contact and trust the other party.
  • Be cautious if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from government or a genuine solar energy provider. Verify who they are by finding the agency or company's contact details from an independent source such as a phone book and contacting them directly.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Face mask scams

BUYER BEWARE: Scammers have created fake online stores claiming to sell products that don't exist - such as cures or vaccinations for COVID-19, and products such as face masks.

BUYER BEWARE: Scammers have created fake online stores claiming to sell products that don't exist - such as cures or vaccinations for COVID-19, and products such as face masks.

  • Scammers have created fake online stores claiming to sell products that don't exist - such as cures or vaccinations for COVID-19, and products such as face masks.
  • The best way to detect a fake trader or social media shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. No vaccine or cure presently exists for the coronavirus.
  • Be wary of sellers requesting unusual payment methods such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.
  • More information is available at: Online shopping scams.

Threats to life, arrest or other

The scam is designed to scare you into handing over your money without seeking any further assistance or information.

  • Scammers use threats designed to frighten you into handing over money, and can include threats to your life.
  • Scammer may call you and pressure you into paying immediately, threaten you with arrest, or say they will send the police to your house if you refuse. Scammers will also send emails claiming you owe money for things like a speeding fine, tax office debt or unpaid bill.
  • Scammers have been known to target vulnerable people, such as the elderly and newly arrived migrants. They will often impersonate government officials from agencies such as the Department of Home Affairs, the Services Australia or Centrelink, and the Australian Federal Police.
  • Scammers will tell you that there are problems with your immigration papers or visa status, and threaten deportation unless fees are paid to correct the errors.
  • If the scam is sent by email, it is likely to include an attachment or link to a fake website where you will be asked to download proof of the 'bill', 'fine' or 'delivery details'. Opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.
WATCH OUT: If the scam is sent by email, it is likely to include an attachment or link to a fake website where you will be asked to download proof of the 'bill', 'fine' or 'delivery details'. Opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.

WATCH OUT: If the scam is sent by email, it is likely to include an attachment or link to a fake website where you will be asked to download proof of the 'bill', 'fine' or 'delivery details'. Opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.

WARNING SIGNS

  • You receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government department, debt collection agency or trusted company.
  • You may be left a message on your answering machine asking you to ring a number.
  • The caller will claim that you have issues with your immigration forms or visa status.
  • The caller will tell you that in order to resolve the matter you will need to pay a fee or fine.
  • The caller may ask for your personal information such as your passport details, date of birth or bank information.
  • The caller may claim the police will come to your door and arrest you if you do not pay the fee or fine immediately.

Identity theft

  • Scam target receives an email, text or a phone call out of the blue asking them to 'validate' or 'confirm' personal details by clicking on a link or opening an attachment. The message may contain grammatical errors and be poorly written.
  • Alternatively there are unexpected pop-ups on your computer or mobile device asking if you want to allow software to run or you receive a friend request from someone you don't know on social media.
  • The scammer then gains access to your information by exploiting security weaknesses on your computer, mobile device or network.
  • Scammers can assume your identity on social media to swindle other unsuspecting victims out of money or use a stolen identity to apply for credit cards or loans. They can also steal money from your bank account.

Government impersonation scams

Australians are being urged to watch out for government impersonation scams with over $1.26 million lost from more than 7100 reports made to Scamwatch so far this year and in reality, losses are likely to be far greater.

Beware of scams that impersonate government organisations. Some scammers calim they are from the Australian Tax Office.

Beware of scams that impersonate government organisations. Some scammers calim they are from the Australian Tax Office.

  • There are two main types of scams impersonating government departments; fake government threats and phishing scams.
  • In a fake government threat scam, victims receive a robocall pretending to be from a government department, such as the ATO or Department of Home Affairs.
  • The scammer will claim something illegal, such as tax fraud or money laundering, has been committed in the victim's name and they should dial 1 to speak to an operator.
  • The scammer then tries to scare people into handing over money and may threaten that they would be arrested if they refuse.
  • In a phishing scam, victims will receive an email or text message claiming to be from a government department, such as Services Australia, requesting personal details to confirm their eligibility for a government payment or because the person may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The emails and texts will include a link and request personal details such as a tax file number, superannuation details or copies of identity documents.

The ACCC also recommends that you report the scam to the government department that was impersonated.

More information on scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

Tax time scams

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is urging the public to beware of SMS and email scams that ask you to update your details on a fake myGov website.

  • These scams look like they have come from a myGov or ATO email address but often include a suspicious link such as bit.ly/myGovhelp and a prompt you to log into your account within 24 hours otherwise it will be locked. Don't click any links and don't provide the information requested.
  • For real myGov notifications, you will get an email or SMS notification from myGov alerting you to a new message in your myGov Inbox. These messages will never include a link to log on to your myGov account.
  • Any communications containing your personal information, such as your tax file number will be sent to your myGov inbox, not your email account.
  • Always access online services directly via my.gov.au, ato.gov.au, the ATO app.

If you receive an SMS or email from the ATO that you think is fraudulent, report it by sending an email to reportemailfraud@ato.gov.au. If you receive an SMS or email that looks like it's from myGov but it contains a link or appears suspicious email reportascam@servicesaustralia.gov.au. If you have clicked on a link or provided your personal information, contact Services Australia on 1800 941 126.

Image shows an example of an SMS scam making the rounds in July 2020.

Image shows an example of an SMS scam making the rounds in July 2020.

Phone scam

The ATO has receive reports of scammers sending members of the public automated phone calls pretending to be from the ATO, as well as other government agencies including Services Australia and the Department of Legal Services.

  • These automated calls claim their TFN has been suspended and that there is a legal case against their name. The call tells people they must contact the caller by pressing '1' or they will be referred to the court and arrested.
  • If you receive this call hang up and do not provide the information requested. ATO will never send unsolicited pre-recorded messages to your phone or threaten you with immediate arrest.
  • If you aren't sure whether an ATO call is legitimate, hang up and phone 1800 008 540 to check.

Betting and sports investment scams

Betting and sports investment scams are often a form of gambling disguised as legitimate investments. Most of the schemes or programs do not work as promised and buyers cannot get their money back. In many cases the supplier simply disappears.

GAMBLE: Often the information used in computer prediction software programs can be obtained from the betting pages of your local newspaper at very little cost.

GAMBLE: Often the information used in computer prediction software programs can be obtained from the betting pages of your local newspaper at very little cost.

Computer prediction software

  • Scammer will try to sell you a software program that promises to accurately predict sporting results, usually of team sports or horse racing and promise high returns or profits as a result of the program's use.
  • Team sports betting programs claim to identify opportunities based on historical trends and the different odds offered by various bookmakers. Horse racing software will often claim that predictions are based on weather conditions, the state of the horse, the draw, or the condition of the jockey.
  • Often the information used in these programs can be obtained from the betting pages of your local newspaper at very little cost.

Betting syndicates

  • You will need to pay a compulsory fee (often in excess of $15,000) to join and open a sports betting account.
  • The scammer tells you that they will use funds in the account to place bets on behalf of the syndicate. You, and other 'syndicate members' are promised a percentage of the profits.

Sports investment

  • Schemes are usually promoted as business opportunities or investments at trade fairs, shows or via the internet. People may also be contacted via an unsolicited phone call, email or letter.
  • Scammer will use technical or financial terms such as 'sports arbitrage',' sports betting', 'sports wagering', 'sports tipping' or 'sports trading' to make these scams look like legitimate investments. Promotional material is often glossy and sophisticated.
  • The scammer may also claim company is registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Business email compromise scams

Business email compromise scams caused the highest losses across all scam types in 2019 costing businesses $132 million, according to the ACCC's Targeting Scams report.

Almost 6,000 reports were made from businesses in 2019, with $5.3 million in reported losses. False billing was the most commonly reported type of scam which includes business email compromise scams.

EMAIL SCAMS: Almost 6,000 reports were made from businesses in 2019, with $5.3 million in reported losses.

EMAIL SCAMS: Almost 6,000 reports were made from businesses in 2019, with $5.3 million in reported losses.

Other scams reported by businesses include online shopping scams where the business attempts to buy equipment online and the product never arrives.

  • Scammers intercept legitimate invoices and change the details to include fraudulent payment information.
  • The recipient will pay the invoice as normal and not realise they have been scammed.
  • Another technique used by scammers is to impersonate the CEO of a company and request staff transfer funds to them for a variety of reasons, such as to purchase gift cards as a surprise for other staff.

Hacking

Hacking occurs when a scammer gains access to your personal information by using technology to break into your computer, mobile device or network.

To minimise your risk, always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy a computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.

HACKING: To minimise your risk, always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy a computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.

HACKING: To minimise your risk, always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy a computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.

  • Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to 'unlock' your computer or files.
  • Exploiting security weaknesses which can include reused and easily guessed passwords, out of date anti-virus software, and unsecured WiFi and Bluetooth connections.
  • Payment redirection scams - if you are a business, a scammer posing as one of your regular suppliers will tell you that their banking details have changed. They will provide you with a new bank account number and ask that all future payments are processed accordingly. The scam is often only detected when your regular supplier asks why they have not been paid.
  • Once scammers have hacked your computer or mobile device they can access your personal information, change your passwords, and restrict access to your system. They will use the information they obtain to commit fraudulent activities, such as identity theft or they could obtain direct access to your banking and credit card details.

Protect your self

  • Use your security software to run a virus check if you think your computer's security has been compromised. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
  • Secure your networks and devices, and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access or provide personal information.
  • Choose passwords and PINs that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Do not save them on your phone or computer.
  • Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or social media messages you've received from strangers - just press delete.
  • Be wary of free downloads and website access, such as music, games, movies and adult sites. They may install harmful programs without you knowing.

Illawarra rental scam warning

Lake Illawarra Police are warning residents about a new scam that has targeted a number of victims across the Illawarra who have been searching for rental properties.

Police are investigating a number of incidents relating to homes advertised online for rent on sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. Read more here.

Roofing scams

Scammers will travel from door to door in neighbourhoods, targeting the vulnerable and often older members of the community.

The scammers are sometimes known to have Irish or Scottish accents and will tell their targets that urgent work is needed to be carried out on their roof before offering a quote for the repairs.

Final costs blow out to thousands of dollars and often little or poor work is actually carried out.

Several Irish nationals have recently been charged with such a scam and people are being urged to be vigilant for similar operations around the country.

BE SKEPTICAL: Travelling conmen target seniors for roofing scams. Often no work, or poor work is carried out and victims are fleeced of thousands of dollars.

BE SKEPTICAL: Travelling conmen target seniors for roofing scams. Often no work, or poor work is carried out and victims are fleeced of thousands of dollars.

  • Scammers, often travelling conmen, knock on doors of unsuspecting home owners, many of them seniors, convincing them that urgent roof repairs are required to their homes.
  • They then charge exorbitant rates and either do not carry out the work or perform a sub-standard job.
  • Scammers will often quote a reasonable price, then tell the homeowner they have found asbestos or other problems which inflates the final amount to an exorbitant price.
  • Often, a fake invoice under an unregistered business name will be provided using a false ABN.

Scratchie scams

Scratchie cards are sometimes used in promotions, lotteries or competitions, beckoning users to 'scratch and win an instant prize', for example travel or holidays. While some scratchie cards may represent legitimate lotteries or competitions, according to scamwatch.gov.au, you should be extremely suspicious of any scratchie card that requires a payment to claim a prize.

  • Scratchie scams will offer you an instant prize, but when you contact the trader to claim it, you will be asked to provide payment for various 'fees' via wire transfer or preloaded money card.
  • The scammer may request bank details and photo identification. In some rare cases you may be asked to travel overseas to collect your winnings.
  • The scam package may include professional-looking brochures, often for accommodation, which are designed to trick you into thinking the competition is legitimate. It may include contact details for a business overseas and a web address for a fraudulent but professional-looking website.
  • The up-front payment requested can be as high as a few thousand dollars. If you pay, you will not receive the prize, and you will never see your money again. If you provide your personal details, they may be used for further fraudulent activity such as identity crime.

Warning signs

  • You receive a letter or brochure in your mailbox which includes scratchie cards. Often there will be two cards - one is a losing card and the other has a second or third prize win.
  • The scratchies will say you have to call the company to claim the prize.
  • If you call the organisation they may claim that the scratchies were sent to you in error however you can pay a fee to enter the competition or become a customer to make the win valid.
  • You are asked to send a fee or bank account details to collect your prize. You may be asked to send personal identification as well.
  • The trader offering the prize claims the offer has government approval. This is often accompanied by a request for the payment of taxes linked to the prize.

Pyramid schemes

DAMAGING: Promoters of pyramid schemes often make claims like 'this is not a pyramid scheme' or 'this is totally legal'.

DAMAGING: Promoters of pyramid schemes often make claims like 'this is not a pyramid scheme' or 'this is totally legal'.

You may hear about a pyramid scheme from friends, family or neighbours. Usually, pyramid schemes recruit members at seminars, home meetings, over the phone, by email, post or social media. Here are some tips to avoid ending up on the bottom of the heap.

  • Typically with, you pay to join. The scheme relies on you convincing other people to join up and to part with their money as well. In order for everyone in the scheme to make a profit there needs to be an endless supply of new members.
  • In reality, the number of people willing to join the scheme, and therefore the amount of money coming into the scheme, will dry up very quickly.
  • Some promoters disguise their true purpose by introducing products that are overpriced, of poor quality, difficult to sell or of little value.
  • The promoters at the top of the pyramid make their money by having people join the scheme. They pocket the fees and other payments made by those who join under them. When the scheme collapses, relationships, even marriages, can be damaged over money lost in the scam.
  • It is against the law to promote or participate in a pyramid scheme.

Warning signs

  • You are offered a chance to join a group, scheme, program or team where you need to recruit new members to make money.
  • The scheme involves offering goods or services of little or doubtful value that serve only to promote the scheme, such as information sheets.
  • There are big up-front costs.
  • The promoter makes claims like 'this is not a pyramid scheme' or 'this is totally legal'.

Protect yourself

  • Do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions about money or investments - always get independent financial advice.
  • Be wary of schemes or products that claim a guaranteed income.
  • Consider whether the rewards you have been promised are dependent on product sales. If so, are the products of real value, sold at a reasonable price and something that there is actually consumer demand for?
  • Remember that family members and friends may try to involve you in a pyramid scheme without realising that it is one.
  • It is against the law not only to promote a pyramid scheme, but to participate in one.

Lockdown puppy scams

BUYER BEWARE: Scammers have been targeting those seeking a furry companion during social isolation.

BUYER BEWARE: Scammers have been targeting those seeking a furry companion during social isolation.

  • Scammers have been targeting those seeking a furry companion during social isolation.
  • Scammers set up fake websites or ads on online classifieds and social media pretending to sell sought-after dog breeds and will take advantage of the fact that you can't travel to meet the puppy in person.
  • They will usually ask for up-front payments via money transfer to pay for the pet and transport it to you.
  • Once you have paid the initial deposit, the scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, and scammers are now using the COVID-19 pandemic to claim higher transportation costs to get across closed interstate borders or additional fees for 'coronavirus treatments'.
  • Once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact.

Mobile premium services

EXORBITANT CHARGES: Fraudsters make money by charging extremely high rates for the text messages you send, and any further messages they send to you. These charges will not be made clear to you, and could be as high as $4 for each message sent and/or received.

EXORBITANT CHARGES: Fraudsters make money by charging extremely high rates for the text messages you send, and any further messages they send to you. These charges will not be made clear to you, and could be as high as $4 for each message sent and/or received.

  • Scammers create SMS competitions or trivia scams to trick you into paying extremely high call or text rates when replying to an unsolicited text message on your mobile or smart phone.
  • It may invite you to enter a competition for a great prize-for example, a smart phone or tablet or gift vouchers for a well-known retailer.
  • You will be required to send a text message back and may also receive an email or encounter a pop-up window online asking you to enter your mobile number in order to claim a prize you've supposedly won.
  • Alternatively the message may invite you to take part in a trivia contest or survey with a prize on offer.
  • The scammers make money by charging extremely high rates for the text messages you send, and any further messages they send to you. These charges will not be made clear to you, and could be as high as $4 for each message sent and/or received. You may also be automatically subscribed to ongoing charges. You will not discover these charges until you see your next itemised phone bill.

NBN, Telstra and Amazon scams

  • Scammers are calling Australians and impersonating well-known businesses such as the NBN Co, Telstra and even Amazon, and requesting remote access to devices to steal your money and personal information.
  • They will tell you that your computer has been sending error messages or that it has a virus and may mention problems with your internet connection or phone line and say this has affected your computer's recent performance. They may claim that your broadband connection has been hacked.
  • The caller will request remote access to your computer to 'find out what the problem is'.
  • The scammer may try to talk you into buying unnecessary software or a service to 'fix' the computer, or they may ask you for your personal details and your bank or credit card details.

Fake charities

  • Scammers will steal your money by posing as a genuine charity.
  • Fake charity approaches occur all year round and often take the form of a response to real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes and bushfires.
  • Scammers will pose as either agents of well-known charities or create their own charity name. Can include charities that conduct medical research or support disease sufferers and families.
  • They may play on your emotions by claiming to help children who are ill.
  • You may be approached on the street or front door by people collecting money. Scammers may also set up fake websites which look similar to those operated by real charities. Some will call or email you requesting a donation.

Have you been scammed?

Have you been a victim of a recent scam? Australian Community Media is interested in publishing first-hand accounts from those who have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators. If you're interested in sharing your story as a warning to others, contact Anna Wolf at anna.wolf@austcommunitymedia.com.au

COVID-19 

The federal government's www.scamwatch.gov.au website has received more than a thousand coronavirus-related scam reports since the outbreak.

Common scams include phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams.

Types of COVID-19 Scams

More information on these scams can be found at the Scamwatch website.

If you have been scammed or have seen a scam, you can make a report on the Scamwatch website. Tips for avoiding COVID-19 scams include:

  • Do not provide your personal, banking or superannuation details to strangers who have approached you.
  • Stop and check, even when you are approached by what you think is a trusted organisation.
  • Don't click on hyperlinks in text/social media messages or emails, even if it appears to come from a trusted source.
  • Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details
  • Never provide a stranger remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a telco company such as Telstra or the NBN Co.
  • To verify the legitimacy of a contact, find them through an independent source such as a phone book, past bill or online search.
  • The best way to detect a fake trader or social media shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. No vaccine or cure presently exists for the coronavirus.
  • Be wary of sellers requesting unusual payment methods such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.

More information

Threats and extortion

Malware and ransomware

  • Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to 'unlock' your computer or files.
  • If you click on the link you may be taken to a fake website that looks like the real deal, complete with logos and branding of legitimate sites. In order to view the video, you will be asked to install some software, such as a 'codec', to be able to access the video format. If you download the software, your computer will be infected with malware (malicious software).
  • Another way of delivering a malware scam is through websites and pop-ups that offer 'free' file downloads, including music, movies and games, or free access to content, such as adult sites.
  • Malware scams work by installing software on your computer that allows scammers to access your files or watch what you are doing on your computer. Scammers use this information to steal your personal details and commit fraudulent activities.
  • Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks or limits access to your computer or files, and demands a ransom be paid to the scammer for them to be unlocked.
  • Infected computers often display messages to convince you into paying the ransom. Scammers may pretend to be from the police and claim you have committed an illegal activity and must pay a fine, or they may simply demand payment for a 'key' to unlock your computer.
  • If you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee your computer will be unlocked.

How to report a scam

Visit www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam to report a scam. You can also report a scam to the appropriate agency to help them warn the community about scams and take action to disrupt scams.

Banking: Your bank or financial institution

Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support and myGov related scams:Department of Human Services Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk - call 1800 941 126

Cybercrime:ReportCyber

Fraud and theft: Your local police - call 131 444

In Victoria call your local police station

Image based abuse (sextortion), cyberbullying and illegal content:Office of the eSafety Commissioner

Tax related scams:Australian Taxation Office

This information has been taken from the federal government's Scamwatch website. for more information visit scamwatch.gov.au.