Don't Get Scammed
A scam is a way for criminals to take money or personal information from you. Scammers will usually contact you out of the blue, and they trick you either by promising an offer ‘too good to refuse’ or by threats. Often these people try to gain your trust by pretending to be from a familiar company (like your phone or electricity provider), or a charity or someone else in need.
If you have sent money to a scammer it is almost impossible to get it back. Perhaps even more concerning is that if scammers have access to your computer, passwords, customer numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and bank account details they can impersonate you (called ‘identity theft’) for years to come.
That’s why it pays to stop and check things out before you commit- if something looks too good to be true it probably is.
Scams change to keep up with trends, new technologies, and to avoid the law. Therefore, it is hard to keep a list of all of the possible scams that are out there. Websites like the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) ‘Scam Watch’ can help you find out about the most recent scams to watch out for.
Common types of scams include:
Overdue Bill- You receive an email, phone call or text that appears to be from a legitimate service provider (eg electricity company), claiming that you owe them money. Anything that you pay goes to the scammers.
Fake tech support calls-You receive a call from someone claiming that your computer is infected with a virus and they can fix it by helping you to install some software. The software itself is a virus, and once you’ve installed it they can access your computer from anywhere in the world.
Lotteries/Prizes/Competitions- You get an email or a text saying that you’ve won a prize. Sometimes, the email itself contains a virus and when you click on the link to claim your prize your computer gets infected. In other versions the scammers tell you that you need to send them your personal information, pay for postage costs, or send a processing fee before they can give you the prize.
Fake online shopping websites- These are most common around holiday periods (eg Christmas) or where there are tickets available for big events. The websites claim to be selling the products, but they take your money and nothing ever gets delivered.
Romance and Dating- Beware of people pretending to be someone they are not. Does that dream date look too good to be true? They probably are. These scammers use a fake name/photo/account to look for victims who are looking for love. Getting your heart broken will be the least of your worries if you’ve given them money (often to arrange travel or passports) or access to details that you’ll never get back.
Inheritance Scams- Someone pretending to be a lawyer or a banker contacts you out of the blue to say that a long lost relative has died, and you are set to inherit money or property. They may ask you to send ID paperwork, bank details or money to cover taxes and processing fees before the inheritance can come to you.
The most important thing to remember is: If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
Other good tips include:
Don’t give out your passwords or bank account details.
You’ve got to be in it to win it- if you didn’t enter a competition; you probably haven’t really won a prize
Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails unless you know the person who has sent the email.
Keep the anti-virus software on your computer up to date. If you’re not sure how, ask a friend that you trust for help.
Don’t just take their word for it- do some research of your own to make sure that that deal is really as good as it sounds. When researching, type the website address in yourself (rather than clicking on a link provided to you) and do a search for any phone numbers to make sure that you really are calling the company you think you are.
Don’t pay money or sign contracts over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call- contact the service provider directly yourself and ask to speak to their accounts department.
Don’t feel pressured to commit to buy or sign up for anything that is sold to you door-to-door. Ask the salesperson for information, take some time to think it over, and then call the company yourself at a later time if you decide to go ahead.
What does the law have to say about scams?
Your rights as a consumer are protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL is part of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), and covers things like contracts, advertising, sales and product safety. There are strict penalties for any company or person who breaches the ACL.
You can find a copy of the ACL online here.
Many of the activities of scammers are also Criminal activity.
If you see something that you think might be a scam you should report it.
If the scam comes from NSW you can report it to the Department of Fair Trading by calling 13 22 20.
If the scam comes from outside of NSW (including overseas) you can report it to the ACCC using their online form.
Even if you haven’t been a victim yourself, you can help prevent other people from becoming targets.
Who can I talk to?
Scam Watch: www.scamwatch.gov.au
Consumer Law Australia: www.consumerlaw.gov.au
Department of Fair Trading
32 Sulphide St, Broken Hill NSW 2880
Ph: (08) 8088 0100
Far West Community Legal Centre
5 Chloride St, Broken Hill
Ph: 08 8087 6766
Freecall: 1800 300 036
Ph: 1300 888 529
What is a scam?
Disclaimer: This information is a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem you should consult a lawyer.
It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia. The information contained in this publication is current at 1 January 2014.
How can I avoid getting scammed?
What can I do about it?