Let’s talk scams

Alarmingly, financial losses as a result of scams continue to rise each year. In fact, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) latest annual Targeting Scams report (June 2021), there were 444,000 financial scams reported in 2020, with combined financial losses of topping $851 million1. Scams are widespread and serious, with losses and reports increasing during the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic and expected to be higher in 2021.

As we emerge from lockdowns and approach the festive season, it’s timely to ensure we keep up to date with new scams that arise and get familiar with the red flags associated with each. More information on these red flags can be found on our Fraud and Security hub.

Often we are too embarrassed to disclose we have been scammed, which generally leads to a lack of awareness and education to those around us who may be at equal risk of being scammed. Encouraging family and friends to talk about scams breaks the cycle of silence and shame, and helps to protect others from falling victim to a scam.

This year, Qudos Bank is proud to be an active partner in Scams Awareness Week 2021 ‘Let’s Talk About Scams’ (8 – 12 November) organised by Scamwatch.

To help spark those conversations, we’ve taken a closer look at common and recent scams on the rise in Australia. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of scams, it’s a good starting point to understand how modern scammers operate and what to watch out for.

Remote access scams

Remote access scams are one of the largest growing scam types in Australia, with a 179% increase in losses in 2021, totalling more than $10 million1. Those aged 65 and over have been hit the hardest, reporting losses of over $4 million1.

Remote access scams involve a scammer taking control of your computer remotely, often with your assistance. This then allows them to access the banking details and other personal information saved on your device. These scams usually begin with a phone call where the scammer claims to be a representative of an organisation you recognise — often tech organisations like Microsoft, a telco, a bank or NBN Co and can last for several hours with the aim to disorientate and confuse your train of thought to make hasty and irrational decisions.

By using scare tactics scammers will try to convince you that there’s a problem with your computer which urgently requires their assistance to resolve the fictitious issue. If you click a link to ‘receive assistance’, they are able gain access to your computer and access your bank accounts and personal information. By allowing access to a third party, scammers may also deploy malware or a virus on your device to continue to compromise your details long after the fraud event.

For more information on remote access scams, visit our 'Attempts to gain personal information' webpage.

Investment scams

Investment scams are on the rise — already costing Australians $90 million in 2021, compared with $65.8 million for the whole of 20201. Losses to cryptocurrency scams account for over 50% of these losses1.

Investment scams usually lure their victims with promises of big payouts, easy money and guaranteed returns. Often, the offer seems too good to be true — and it usually is.

While the initial investment amount that scammers request might be low, these are usually followed up with demands for additional sums which can soon add up to significant amounts. Rather than the guaranteed return promised, the most likely outcome is the scammer either claiming the money has been lost or just stopping all communication.

While Australians of all age groups are falling victim to investment scams, men and those aged 65 and over have been impacted the most.

For more information on investment scams, visit our Fraud & Security hub.

Threat-based scams

Scamwatch has received over 27,000 reports of threat scams between January and September this year, accounting for over $10 million in losses. Australians aged 18-24 have lost the most money to these types of scams3.

Threat-based scams are also increasingly common. Playing on peoples’ fear and desire to abide by the law, scammers pretend to be from the Australian Government or law enforcement and may claim there’s an issue with your bank account, TFN, or that a package has been intercepted that links you to criminal activity. Scammers may use threats of significant fines, or even arrest, to extract money from you in order to make the invented issue disappear.

COVID-19 scams

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Scamwatch has received over 6,415 scam reports mentioning coronavirus, equating to more than $9.8 million of losses as at April 20214.

Scammers are using the pandemic as an opportunity to capitalise on confusion and extract money from those who may need it the most. Examples include vaccination scams, fake myGov text messages and emails pretending to help you with applications for financial assistance.

Malware

Text message scams and missed call scams have recently increased, with ‘Flubot’ being the latest malware to affect over 12,000 Australians’ mobile phones1.

Many malware scams begin with a text message, supposedly from AUS Post, Amazon, DHL or other well-known courier companies which asks the victim to click a link to track delivery.

Another example of Flubot malware is receiving a text message stating you received a “missed call” and clicking on the link to listen to a voicemail message. These messages are fake and the link actually installs a malicious software to your phone which can be used to access financial or personal information.

A reminder, your bank will never ask for any account or personal details by text or email. If someone does, stop and think, then hang up or delete the message straight away.

Scammer’s chosen communication methods

Knowing how scammers commonly communicate can also help us protect ourselves.

The most common communication mediums used by scammers in Australia as of June 2021 are2:

  • Phone: 47.7%, with 103,153 reports
  • Email: 22%, with 47,503 reports
  • Text message: 15%, with 32,337 reports
  • Internet: 6.3%, with 13,636 reports
  • Social networking and online forums: 4.5%, with 9,687 reports

If a stranger contacts you on any the above communication mediums, always be wary and never give out your personal details.

Tips to avoid falling victim to scams:

You can help reduce the likelihood that you and your loved ones fall victim by increasing your scam awareness, knowing what to look out for and talking about scams with your family and friends.

Some basic tips to stay ahead of scams include:

  • Improve your scam awareness: read up on types of scams that are common, paying attention to the patterns of how they operate, and you’ll be more likely to recognise a scam if you encounter one.
  • Be wary: if you receive a text message,  email or phone call with an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Avoid clicking links or opening attachments from an email address you don’t recognise: if you receive an incoming email or text message unexpectedly, never click on the link. Instead, go to the provider’s website and log-in directly.
  • Go direct to the organisation contacting you: if you are contacted over the phone by someone you don’t know, don’t engage with the caller — tell them you will call the organisation directly to resolve the issue. Search the organisation’s number online and use the phone number on their website. Don’t ever give any information out on an incoming call and don’t call back on a number provided over the phone.
  • Keep your information secure: be careful how much personal information you share on social media sites and keep your passwords and PINs in a safe place.

Scams are becoming more prevalent in Australia and unfortunately, it’s likely that most people will encounter one. Whether or not we fall victim may depend on how aware we all are of how scammers work and how we protect ourselves.

The best way to increase our awareness is to talk. Sharing personal stories of close calls, or how scams have affected us, can be a great way to make more people understand the danger that scams can pose. Talking openly and listening to the experiences of others with no judgement can also be effective in removing the stigma of being the victim of a scam while also helping to protect each other from falling victim.

For more help on how to stay safe and secure and avoid becoming the victim of a scam, visit the Qudos Bank Fraud Hub. You’ll find more information on types of scams to watch out for, how to protect yourself and how to report scams.