Protecting yourself from scams

Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Be alert and protect yourself from being scammed by following these tips.

Scams Target Everyone Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. There's no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. Scammers are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal details.

Four signs it's a scam

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1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the
IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or
even a charity asking for donations. They may use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.

2. Scammers often say there’s a “PROBLEM” or an “AWARD or PRIZE”.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to give bank information or pay a fee to get it.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story. They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

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What you can do to avoid a scam

  1. Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.
  2. Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
  3. If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.
  4. Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.
  5. Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
  6. Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.
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Internet scams - 5 ways to avoid them

The internet offers a wide world of benefits. It makes sending and receiving information easier than ever before. But Thieves can also use the internet to try to steal your information. Often this involves scams called ‘phishing’ and ‘spoofing’. Phishing is when an online scammer reproduces the appearance of a legitimate website in order to trick the victim into entering sensitive data. Spoofing is when a fraudulent email sender hopes to have you respond to an email that is made to look as if it is from a legitimate company.

Combinations of spoofing and phishing may make a convincing lie that can easily make you a victim. Here are 6 scam-savvy tips for avoiding online traps:

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1. Check the Web Address (or URL) Communications from popular social websites, online payment processors, or IT administrators are commonly used to lure in the unsuspecting public. The web address for the phishing site may closely resemble the authentic website. It may even contain the address of the authentic website, but also includes code to reroute the traffic to a false website.

2. Stay alert and skeptical of people unexpectedly contacting you by email or phone and asking about personal information. Only open emails, links, and attachments from trustworthy sources.

3. Know who your providers are for your hosting, email, and internet. Also know how these providers will be contacting you.

4. Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus software, and firewalls. For optimal protection, make sure to keep these programs up to date.

5. Act immediately if you think you have been a victim of an online scam. If you have provided account numbers, PINS, or passwords to an unidentified source, notify the companies that you have accounts with right away.

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Protect yourself from scams

Protect Yourself Be alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Know who you're dealing with. If you've only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them. If a message or email comes from a friend and it seems unusual or out of character for them, contact your friend directly to check that it was really them that sent it.
  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in
    the message sent to you.
  • Don't respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access – hang up – even if they mention a well-known company such as Telstra. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus which will give them your passwords and personal details.
  • Keep your personal details secure. Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
  • Choose your passwords carefully. Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Review your privacy and security settings on social media. If you use social networking sites, such as Facebook, be careful who you connect with and learn how to use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe. If you recognize suspicious behavior, clicked on spam or have been scammed online, take steps to secure your account and be sure to report it.
  • Beware of any requests for your details or money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offense.
  • Be wary of unusual payment requests. Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin. Be careful when shopping online. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Think twice before using virtual currencies (like Bitcoin) - they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods, which means you can’t get your money back once you send it.
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How to spot a fake

Documents are easily faked. Some will look just like the real thing but others might have
warning signs, such as:

  • generic rather than personal greeting
  • names of organizations that don't exist
  • poorer quality presentation
  • poorer quality grammar and spelling
  • overly official or forced language.

Documents such as flight itineraries and bank statements have simple, uncomplicated layouts even when they are legitimate because such businesses allow their customers to print online statements. This means that scammers can easily create fake documents by using information available online such as company logos and graphics from websites.

Scammers can easily fake an official-looking email, using the same logo and design as the real company. Often your guard is down when you receive an email from a company you've dealt with before, or an online shopping site you use. If you're not expecting an email, always be alert to a fake before clicking on any links or opening any attachments.

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Follow up scams

Scammers will often try to take advantage when you’re feeling vulnerable and try to extract more money from you through a follow up scam. Some common follow up scams include:

  • Offers from a law enforcement agency to investigate your scam and retrieve your money for a fee. Law enforcement agencies do not charge for their services
  • A doctor calling you to alert you that the scammer urgently needs medical bills to be paid or they might die
  • A woman contacting you to explain she is the scammer’s wife and wants to escape him but needs money to do so.

These are only a few of the follow up approaches scammers may use to try to get more money from you. New approaches could be quite different from the original scam and could come quickly or some time later. Scammers may have passed your details to other scammers who use entirely different methods and the new approach may seem totally unrelated to the original scam.

More resources

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