If you have been scammed, or believe you have been scammed, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Financial scams are now crimes which are occurring regularly – many scams are very sophisticated and professional, and very experienced investors have lost money to scams. It is becoming increasingly important to discuss the risk of scams with family, friends, and peers.
Advancements in technology has allowed scammers to become more professional in their approach. According to Scamwatch Australia, a reported $851 million was lost to scams in Australia in 2020, with $328 million comprising of investments scams, some of which may have impacted SMSFs.
We all have the ability to make life difficult for the scammers, and there are practical things we can do to protect ourselves. Here are some tips to ensure your scam radar is switched on.
Be wary of unknown phone numbers
If you don’t recognise the number, consider letting it go to Voicemail. If it’s legitimate and important, the caller will leave a message.
Avoid answering the call by giving your name. Scammers may be recording you speaking your name, and may attempt to apply it to voice recognition identification systems.
Always assume that legitimate businesses will not ask you to provide personal information and financial details over the phone.
If you take a phone call from someone claiming to be from a well-known organisation asking for personal or financial information, you should:
- Hang up immediately.
- Consider contacting the organisation as they may be able to confirm your suspicions.
Secure your digital devices
Protecting devices and online security is critical and should occur continuously. You can improve your online security by:
- Installing an anti-virus software.
- Monitoring credit/debit card transactions to ensure there is no unauthorised activity.
Verbally verify payment details
If you need to deposit a large sum of money (or any sum of money) into a bank account, telephone the recipient to verbally confirm the bank account details prior to making the transfer. Be especially vigilant if you receive a request to change or update a payee’s bank account details.
Make this a habit, each and every time you set up new payee details in your online banking. It takes only minutes of your time to be certain your money is reaching the intended recipient.
Think before clicking on links
Treat every email or text with a link for providing information or taking action with a link as suspicious, even if it states it is from a trusted organisation like AusPost. Unless you are absolutely certain the email is legitimate, do not click on any links.
A safer approach is to login to your account and check there for notifications. Or give the service provider a call, and verify that the request is genuine.
Scammers are becoming increasingly clever at making their fake emails look authentic. They can replicate email signatures and company logos. Look carefully, check the language – does it ‘feel’ like the sort of email that you might receive from the purported company?
If you receive a text or email containing an urgent call to action followed by an unusual link with suspicious random numbers and letters, it is most likely a scam. Avoid clicking on the link provided, and delete the message immediately.
If something seems too good to be true, it usually is
If you hear of a great investment opportunity, promising high returns and minimal fees, there’s a good chance this is a scam.
ASIC has been raising awareness recently of scammers who trap investors by replicating the websites of legitimate financial product providers. Through their dodgy websites, they offer high-yield investments, such as corporate bonds or term deposits. In some cases, the scammers even replicate call centres, to respond to phone enquiries. They do this so well that it can be very difficult to discern the scammers from the real thing.
Treat every ‘exceptional’ investment opportunity as suspicous and carry out thorough due diligence. Seek multiple avenues to verify the legitimacy of the offer. Cross check website addresses and call centre numbers. If you have an investment adviser, be sure to call them first and discuss what you’re thinking of doing.
Secure your mailbox
And by mailbox, we mean the oldschool style of mailbox, the one out the front of your house. By stealing your mail, scammers can obtain valuable information about you, that they can use to verify your identify with legitimate businesses.
Can you lock your mailbox? If not, another option is to use a Post Office box. It might seem less convenient, until you have to pick up the pieces after having your identify stolen.
Do you leave any form of ID in your car? For example, you might leave a hard copy of your COVID vaccination certificate in your glovebox in case you leave home without your phone. But if this falls into the wrong hands, it’s another potential chink in your identity security.
Assess your scam resilience
IDCare is a not-for-profit organisation who can connect the community with expert Identity & Cyber Security Case Managers who listen and provide the best advice on how to respond to data breaches, scams, identity theft, and cyber security concerns.
IDCare offers a complimentary Cyber First Aid Kit which begins with an online questionnaire to assess your ‘scam resilience’. Try it! Your scam radar may not be as sophisticated as you think it is. Once you complete the survey you’ll receive suggestions for building your scam awareness and resilience.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
- Report the scam to SCAMwatch Australia immediately – scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam
- If you’ve lost money to a scam, contact your financial institution immediately.
- If you’ve provided personal information and are concerned your identity may be compromised, you can contact IDCare for free support on 1800 595 160 or visit https://www.idcare.org/.
This content is intended only to provide a summary and general overview of the subject matter covered. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute advice. We attempt to ensure that the content is accurate and current but we do not warrant the content nor its currency. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.