Twenty twenty has been a year unlike any other; unfortunately, one thing that has remained the same is the prevalence and persistence of financial scams and fraud occurring in Australia. Whether it is targeting victims using dating/romance-based scams, money mule scams, remote access or phishing scams, fraudsters will sink to any level to try and scam money from their victims. So how can you protect yourself?
The best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of scammers is to know what to look out for; here we breakdown some of the most common scams reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch this year.
Money Mule Scams
A Money mule scam is essentially where you are sent money from the scammer, then asked to transfer some of it to someone else. They will often send you a cheque, and then ask you to use gift cards or wire transfers to pass on a certain portion of the money.
This may sound like very obvious fraudulent activity; however, scammers are experts at contriving complex, realistic-sounding circumstances to draw-in their victims. The story is often centred on online dating, work-at-home jobs, or a prize you’ve supposedly won, but that requires taxes or duties to be paid in order to release it.
Romance or online dating scams were the second highest reported scam in Australia in 2020* in terms of the amount of money lost. Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or connect with their targets through social media. The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets, build their trust and convince their victim of a legitimate emotional connection. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.
Whether it’s a family member with a medical condition, a gambling debt or money for them to purchase a plane ticket or visa to supposedly visit the person they’re targeting, these scammers will use all kinds of emotional manipulation to extract money from their victims. These can also take the form of money mule scams, as discussed above.
Remote Access Scams
Remote access scams try to convince you that you have a technical issue with your computer or internet connection. The scammer will call, claiming to be a representative of a major telecommunications or computer company, wanting to advise you of a technical issue. They may say your computer has been sending error messages, or that a problem has been detected with your internet or phone line – they often mention a virus, or that your computer has been hacked, and that they need to urgently resolve this issue in order to prevent it from getting worse.
The caller will then request remote access to your computer, they may try to talk you into purchasing unnecessary software, or into paying for a service to ‘fix’ the problem, both of which require you to provide them with your bank account or credit card details.
The number one most reported type of scam in Australia in 2020* was phishing scams. A phishing scam is where the scammer contacts you pretending to represent a legitimate business in an attempt to trick you into giving out your personal information such as bank details, passwords and credit card numbers. The scammers may contact you by email, social media, phone call, or text message and often pretend to be from a government agency or financial institution.
Stay Safe from Scammers
To help ensure you don’t become a victim of scammers, here are some important rules to keep in mind:
- Never send money in order to receive/release a prize of any kind
- Do not accept a ‘job offer’ that asks you to transfer money
- Never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person, even a romantic connection
- 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 trusted company or organisation
- Never click on hyperlinks in emails, text or social media messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted source.
It is important to remember that The Mutual Bank will never ask you to provide your personal information, Internet Banking login details or passwords via email. If you receive communication from The Mutual Bank that you’re unsure about, please contact our Member Services team on 1300 688 825.
For more information relating to scams please visit www.scamwatch.com.au
*Scamwatch 2020 scam statistics – 2020, October year-to-date.