Protect yourself from scams
How to avoid being scammed
Scammers know all kinds of tricks to convince you they are
genuine and get you to hand over your money. Here we explain the
tricks to watch out for and how to protect yourself from scams.
Know the tricks scammers
Scammers can trick you behind the scenes by hacking your
computer or mobile device, or they can actively approach you
online, by phone or email. Here are some ways scammers try to reel
- Pressure you into making a decision - They
will use the terms 'last chance' or 'limited offer' to make you act
fast. They don't want to give you time to check if their offer is
real before you commit to it, and want you to commit to it early so
you feel like you can't back out.
- Become your friend - By developing a friendly
relationship with you, scammers know you're more likely to listen
to them and go along with something they suggest.
- Threaten you - They will pretend to be from a
well-known organisation or government department and try to scare
you into giving them your personal information or money. They may
threaten you with a fine, or say they'll disconnect your internet,
take you to court, arrest or even deport you.
- Claim to be professionals - Scammers will say
they are approved or associated with another reputable organisation
or government agency, or might claim to be a professional broker, portfolio manager, or investment
dealer. Even if they look and sound professional, they are working
to a carefully crafted script.
- Persistent phone calls, text messages, or
emails - Scammers often approach a large number of people
this way, in the hope of receiving a response. Once you respond,
they will be persistent in contacting you and promising you wealth
or opportunities lost if you don't take up their offer.
- Fake websites and emails - Many scammers
create professional-looking websites to prove to you that their
product is real and worth the money they want you to pay. They can
also send links to these websites in fraudulent emails which look
like they're from your bank or another business you may deal
- Fake social media profiles - Some scammers
create fake profiles and send you a friend request or message. If
you respond, they then send you offers to make quick money or
invest, or ask for money to help them with trouble they are having.
They could also gain access to your personal information and steal your
Protect your personal
Here are some practical ways to protect yourself online and stay
one step ahead of the scammers:
- Do not share your personal, banking or credit card information
with people you don't know or trust, and never give them access to
- Check your bank and credit card statements every month for
- Before you throw out personal documents, destroy them first by
either shredding or ripping them up.
- Beware of entering competitions online where you must provide
- Activate privacy settings on social media sites and be careful
what you post online, as information can be easily stored and
archived, even if you delete it.
- Never share your PIN codes used for banking or your
fraud for more ways to protect your personal information.
Use strong passwords
Passwords protect your personal information, so it is important
to make them strong and change them regularly. Here are some tips
on creating and using passwords:
- Good passwords should have a combination of at least eight
characters and include letters (upper case and lower case), numbers
and symbols e.g. sDke$5!2.
- Don't tell anyone your passwords - a legitimate business or
company should never ask you for your password.
- Use different passwords to access different online accounts,
and make them difficult for others to work out.
- Don't allow your computer to save your passwords, and don't
store them in a file on your computer.
Secure your computer and
Online viruses (also called worms or Trojan horses) can access
personal information, infect your computer or mobile device and
delete files. They can even use your computer to attack other
computers. Here are some things to consider to protect yourself
against these threats:
- Make sure you have good security software (anti-virus,
anti-spyware and a firewall) and keep it up to date.
- Turn on automatic updates for the operating system (e.g.
Windows) and update all other applications and software programs
when updates are available through their official websites.
- Make sure your wireless network is encrypted. If you're not
sure how to do this, seek advice from your internet provider.
- Turn off your computer or disconnect it from the internet when
you're not using it.
- Scan devices such as USBs or external hard drives for viruses,
before opening them.
- Delete and do not open any unsolicited or suspicious emails you
receive. If you've already opened them, don't click on any links or
open any attachments in these emails.
- Do not accept messages or friend requests from people you don't
- Be wary of clicking on advertisements about banking, finances
or investments in your social feed.
- If you use public computers (e.g. in libraries), never save
your passwords to them.
- Be cautious of installing third party applications onto your
phone - they can be used by scammers to steal account details.
Think before you shop or send
When shopping online, make sure you only buy from reputable
companies. Use payment methods with in-built protections such as
credit cards and secure online payment facilities.
If you haven't dealt with a business before, search online to
check recommendations and feedback from other customers. Be aware
of counterfeit items and remember that, if an offer seems too good
to be true, it probably is. For more useful tips, see online
Never send cash overseas or to people you have never met, as
this could be a scam. SCAMWatch has information about the different
types of scams that may try to get you to send them money.
Protecting your kids online
Your kids can also fall victim to scams, so here are some tips
to help keep them out of trouble when they're online:
- Set up your computer in a communal area of the home.
- Always supervise your children when they are online.
- Consider using internet filtering to block certain search terms
- Get your kids into the habit of questioning things online and
ask them to tell you about any suspicious activity they run into
See the Office of the
Children's eSafety Commissioner website for more ways to help
your kids stay safe online, particularly on how to check the
security of online games and apps.
For more information about how to protect yourself and your
personal information, visit Stay Smart Online.
Be wary of unexpected telephone calls
Putting your name on the Do Not Call Register will remove
your details from telemarketing phone lists, but, it won't stop
scammers from phoning you as they do not follow the rules set by
In 2017, the ACCC's Targeting Scams report revealed
that scammers use the phone 40% of the time to trick people. If you
receive a phone call out of the blue, be very wary of the caller.
They may be impersonating a well-known company or request remote
access to your computer to 'stop the scammer'. If this happens,
hang up immediately.
Question offers of easy
Some scammers will approach you with offers to make easy money,
perhaps by investing in their company or product with little to no
risk, or by offering you a 'loan'.
To check the legitimacy of someone who makes you an offer, ask
- What is your name and what company do you represent?
- Who owns your company?
- What is your address?
If they avoid answering these questions, the deal they are
offering you is probably a scam. Hang up the phone, delete and
block the email or messages through social media, and stop dealing
with the person.
Even if they answer all the above questions, be cautious and
trust your instincts. Ask yourself:
- Are they pressuring me to take up this offer?
- Does it seem too good to be true?
- Are they asking for money or anything unusual?
- Have I done my own research?
Never accept unsolicited offers of credit from unfamiliar
lenders and only deal with reputable institutions. If you are
contacted by someone after submitting an online loan application,
don't assume you know who you are dealing with. Scammers can hack
legitimate websites of some smaller lenders to target consumers.
See Banking and credit
scams for more information.
Do your own research
Always do your own research on a company before you deal with
them. Check whether company is real by calling their publicly
listed phone number. Don't rely on the information they give you in
emails or over the phone - find this information separately (via an
internet search or phone book). This is the most important check
you should do as scammers can impersonate licensed companies and
give you a real company's credit licence number to appear
Next, check if they are listed on ASIC's list of companies you should not
deal with. If they are not on the list, there are other checks
you can do, including checking if they have an Australian financial
services (AFS) licence, or if they are on the list of fake
If you think it might be a scam, do not deal with them and
report them to ASIC.
Protect yourself and your devices from
potential scammers. Hang up the phone, delete the email, text, or
social media message if you think it looks even vaguely
Last updated: 24 Oct 2018