For everyone Money matters: Beating the scammers

Three years ago, I wrote an article about the need to be vigilant about scams. Since then, scamming has evolved to a far greater level of sophistication, and the latest scams can be hard to detect.

These can include phishing, impersonating genuine phone numbers, copying letterheads and official websites, infiltrating threads in text messages.

In its latest ‘Targeting Scams Report’, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) notes that in 2022 Australians lost $3.1 billion to scammers – an 80% increase over 2021 losses. Frightening numbers – especially given how many scams go unreported.

By far the greatest amount of money is lost through scams related to investments ($1.5bn), remote access ($229m) and payment redirection ($224m). The most common contact methods are text (33%), phone (29%), then email (22%).

The massive data breaches that occurred this year at Medibank and Optus have effectively released truckloads of personal information into the hands of scammers. Armed with passport numbers and drivers licence details, criminals can satisfy 100-point checks and adopt an individual’s identity for the purposes of opening credit card accounts, taking out loans and so on. Expert advice is required to resolve these cases.

Scammers have had a good run so far due to a lack of public awareness and the failure of government, financial institutions and business to develop a co-ordinated strategy that attacks scammers’ business model. This may be about to change, with money set aside in last year’s national budget to establish a new ‘National Anti-Scam Centre’.

At a personal level, we need to be much less trusting when we receive a text message, a phone call or an email. This is not easy, but can be effective.

  • Don’t respond immediately. Take your time. Check the veracity of any communication that is unexpected and/or seems to stress that there exists a problem you need to resolve quickly. You don’t!
  • Never provide personal information when texts, phone calls and emails appear ‘out of the blue’.
  • Don’t click on any links in text messages, emails or social media.
  • If you think you have been scammed, report it and seek help from your financial institution or the ACCC.

Also take the usual steps:

  • Two-step authentication.
  • Strong passwords.
  • Up-to-date and reputable antivirus software.
  • Protection of your credit/debit card details.

Have a look at the ACCC website – it contains a wealth of information on the latest scams, how they work and how to protect yourself.

Note: This article is in no way intended to provide you with personal advice and you should discuss your own financial circumstances with a qualified financial adviser before committing to any types of investment or changing your existing investments.

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