Unfortunately, scams and financial fraud are becoming more and more common each year. In fact, during 2020, 216,084 scams were reported to Scamwatch - an increase from 167,000 in 20191. These scams cost Australians over $175 million, although as research estimates that only 13% of scams are reported, the true cost could be far higher1.
Many scams cynically target vulnerable members of our community such as older people, those who are not technically savvy or those with disability. If you have a family or friend who you think could be vulnerable, there are some simple steps you can take to help them avoid scams or limit their losses if they’ve already fallen victim.
Identify the scam
The first step toward helping someone is to identify whether they have been scammed. Common behaviours exhibited by people who have been victims of fraud to look out for include:
- They are suddenly short on money.
- They are being secretive about their finances.
- Strangers are visiting them at their home.
- They are receiving a high number of telephone calls.
- They are receiving a high number of packages they don’t seem to need or are getting unnecessary work done on their house.
- They are more withdrawn than usual.
Many scams are well disguised as legitimate communications and may be difficult to identify. Learning more about scams is a great way to prepare yourself against them and ensure you’re able to help your loved ones should they fall victim.
Take steps to protect your family member or friend
If you’ve discovered evidence that a family member or friend has been a victim of fraud, it’s important to act quickly and take steps to protect them. Consider helping them to;
- End all contact with the scammer - don’t speak to them on the phone and ignore all emails, messages and letters.
- Switch off any device that was allowed to the scammer - Cut off any remote-access the scammers have been permitted to including computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
- Stop all payments related to the scam regardless of what the scammer tells them.
- Contact their bank immediately if they’ve made payments or shared personal banking details.
- Report the scam to the relevant authority right away. Most cybercrimes can be reported through the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Report Cyber service. Once reported the crime will be referred to the police for assessment.
- Recover their identity - If you’re concerned that your family member or friend has been a victim of identity theft, report the incident to the authorities, for example, the police or Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). Their role is to help make Australia the safest place to connect online. ACSC have a national footprint of Joint Cyber Security Centres where they collaborate with nearly 200 industry, government and academic partners on current cyber security issues.
- Contact the relevant organisation to report the scam if the scammer has been impersonating a company or government authority.
- Change passwords on any platforms compromised by the scams. It can also be a good idea to change all instances of a password if it is used on other accounts, even if they are unrelated to the scam activity.
Your family member or friend may be embarrassed or ashamed that they fell for a scam and may not want to tell you what happened. They may feel angry, depressed and worry that you’ll think they are gullible for falling for a scam.
Be patient and kind with them and remain supportive even if they don’t want to open up. Showing that you are non-judgmental can be the best way to help them understand that you want to help them. Explain that Australians fall for scams every day and that it can happen to anyone.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of scams is continuing to increase, with the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought offering new opportunities for scammers. In such a challenging environment, it’s a good idea for everyone to learn as much as they can about scams to protect not only themselves, but also those they love.
To learn more, visit our Fraud and Security Hub where you’ll find information on everything from different types of scams to fraud prevention and support services.
Qudos Mutual Limited trading as Qudos Bank ABN 53 087 650 557 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238 305. The information in this article is of a general nature and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.
Published December 2021