As we move into the new financial year, and tax-return time, it’s likely we will see an increase in scammers trying to take advantage of vulnerable Aussies.
According to government site Scamwatch, almost 40% of scams use phone calls, followed by email at around 27%, while text messaging makes up about 15%.
According to the government, some of the most common scams include: attempts to gain your personal information, dating and romance, fake charities, investments, jobs and employment, threats and extortion, unexpected money and winnings, missed calls from overseas numbers that cost money on callback, and premium SMS services.
These scams can have immediate impact, causing financial loss, or can also lead to ongoing problems with identity theft or legal issues.
So, how do you protect yourself against the bad guys? Here are some tips for keeping safe:
1. Stop and think
The first thing to do is stop and think about whether you would expect to be receiving a call or email from the person at the other end. Is it a company you normally deal with? Is this their usual method of getting in touch.
If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. A phone call telling you that you have won a prize in a competition you don’t remember entering is probably a scam.
2. What are they asking for?
If you are being asked to give remote access to your computer, it should raise some warning flags. Companies like Telstra or Google will not randomly call asking to fix problems they have detected with your system.
Likewise, unsolicited calls asking you to transfer money to a bank account to avoid fines or penalties are often preying on people’s fears. Legitimate institutions have processes in place for collecting payments.
3. Quality control
Phone calls that seem unprofessional or don’t follow a script, or emails with spelling and grammatical errors, are a sign that something is wrong.
Poor line quality is another indicator, as many of these calls come from overseas.
4. Pushy callers
Often scammers will apply threats or pressure to convince people to comply. If they are trying to rush you, and dismissing any concerns or requests for identification, it’s unprofessional and inappropriate—regardless of whether they are legitimate or not.
5. Ask for proof
If you have any concerns, ask for proof that they are who they claim to be. Ask for a name, and then call back the institution in question on a verified number. If they are unhappy to assuage your concerns, or become agitated, this is a red flag—you are well within your rights to want to be confident of who it is you are talking to.
6. Protect yourself
Don’t give out your personal information unless you are absolutely confident about who you are talking to, and don’t call back missed numbers if it’s an unknown caller. Let them call back if it is important.
If a caller is making you feel uncomfortable or threatened, don’t feel guilty about a firm goodbye, followed by hanging up.
7. Stay informed
The government’s site, www.scamwatch.gov.au, allows you to sign up for their Scamwatch Radar newsletter, which will keep you up-to-date on the latest scams.
And, remember—if you aren’t sure, it is always better to be safe than sorry and go away to check. If the caller is for real they won’t mind you making sure.