For consumers and authorities, staying one step ahead of scammers can be challenging. As per Carla Hildebrandt's story in the Mandurah Mail this week, scammers' methods are often sophisticated, convincing and ever-changing in response to our warnings.
While people are becoming more savvy and cautious about potential scams, Western Australians reported losing a total of $10.7 million to scams – one-third higher than the previous year. Hand-in-hand with financial losses are the emotional impacts on victims, many of whom experience trauma and loss of confidence and trust.
Scammers often pose as representatives from well-known organisations, such as telecommunication or internet providers, banks, insurance agencies, subscription services and government departments such as the ATO and Centrelink.
The fraudsters’ aim is usually to fleece money or personal details by asking for information, payments or remote access to computers and, ultimately, bank accounts.
If you are uncertain if the person who has contacted you is actually from the organisation, don’t respond until you call the real agency or business through a verified phone number on its official website or the white pages. Do not use any contact details provided in the suspicious call or message.
You should be particularly cautious if the person has contacted you out of the blue and if they request personal details or payments, especially via a bank transfer to an unofficial account or gift cards such as iTunes or Google Play vouchers.
Emails and websites associated with these types of scams can also resemble the real thing, but look out for clues such as poor image quality, spelling or language errors and unusual email addresses.
If you have given bank details to a potential scammer, contact your bank immediately. If you have revealed personal information, get in touch with ID Care (www.idcare.org) is a not-for-profit organisation that helps victims who have fallen victim to identity theft.
Preventing scams and catching scammers is a team effort, so please contact Consumer Protection’s WA ScamNet team (1300 304 054 or email@example.com) to report a scam and stay up to date with our warnings – and help us all stay one step ahead of the scammers.
Lanie Chopping is Commissioner for Consumer Protection.