Tricks used in scams

Tricks and traps of scammers

Scammers use clever tricks to reel you in and get you to reply to their email or not hang up the phone. Most scams seem like genuine offers but they are carefully designed to trick you into giving away your money or your personal details.

Here we break down some of the scamming tricks used so you are aware of them and can be on guard.

Make you feel obligated

Scammers use persuasive psychological tactics to make you part with your money. Some may offer a free gift or assistance to make you feel obliged to return the favour. Remember, you do not owe the scammer anything so don't be pressured into giving them something in return.

Get in before the offer ends

The terms 'last chance' or 'limited offer' are often used by scammers to make you act fast. They don't want to give you any time to check if their offer is real before you commit to it.

If you're being pressured to act fast, don't. This is one of the biggest indicators that you are being scammed.

Become your friend

Scammers know that if they develop a friendly relationship with you, you are more likely to listen to them and go along with whatever they are suggesting. Some scammers access groups of people in churches or community groups and gain their trust. While the investment or offer appears to be going well, they can recruit new victims on the testimony of other people already in the scheme.

Claim to be professionals

Scammers will say they are approved or associated with another reputable organisation or government agency to convince you of their legitimacy. They hope that you have heard of these organisations so you will trust them. They might also say they are a professional broker, portfolio manager or investment dealer. Even if they sound professional and have slick brochures and documents to send you, they are working to a carefully crafted script.

See our fake regulators and exchanges webpage for more information.

Get you to agree

Scammers will get you to commit to something early in the discussion so they can use it to get you to agree to something else later. They do this to make you feel uneasy and to defend your original actions. You need to tell them that just because you agreed to something earlier doesn't mean you can't change your mind about it later.

Persistent phone calls, text messages and emails

Scammers can call you endlessly or try to keep you on the phone for a long time. They present you with promises of wealth or opportunities lost if you do not take up the offer. Scammers will not take no for an answer and might ask you about your worries to reassure you. As long as they can keep you talking you have not really said no.

Scammers can also send you text messages and emails that look like they're from your bank. Don't respond to texts asking you to follow a link and provide personal information (like account numbers or personal details).

Incredible offers of easy money

Scammers are clever at offering you incredible deals that promise great returns with very little or no risk. But if it seems too good to be true, it often is. See investment warnings for details on schemes that may not be very good value for money.

Fake websites

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 with asking you to give up personal information.

Find out more about how fake websites work in investment scams. 

Fake social media profiles

Scammers will create fake profiles using information they have stolen or made up. The person may be someone you know and they will send you a friend request or message, then ask for money to help them with trouble they are having. They may know personal details of your friends if they have hacked their accounts, and by accepting their friend request they could gain access to your personal information and steal your identity. 

See identity fraud for more information on how to protect yourself. 

Video: Kate gets scammed

Kate gets scammed video

Kate learns that not all sites can be trusted. Watch this video to see how Kate learns to recognise friendly websites.

Transcript: Kate gets scammed

For more detailed information on the psychological tricks used in scams, go to how scams work on the ACCC's SCAMwatch website.

Related links

Last updated: 13 Mar 2018