Protect yourself: Scams are on the rise

Published on: October 16th, 2018

It’s a sad reality today that many Australians are targeted by financial scams. It’s something that is often in the headlines and we hear countless warnings to be aware that unscrupulous people could be after our hard-earned money.

The numbers around financial scams are alarming: A recent ACCC report revealed that Australians lost a staggering $340m to scammers in 2017, primarily online. It’s a problem that is rising as we spend more of our lives on the internet.

Scams can take many forms

The fact is that the people and/or organised crime syndicates behind these scams are constantly evolving, creating ever more elaborate ways of conning you out of your money. I think it would be fair to say that most of us have received an email over the years, telling us we’re instantly rich, and all we have to do is send $25,000 to a rich Nigerian benefactor who will return $25m in exchange. As ridiculous and unbelievable as it sounds, it has worked. But as the light shines on one practice, scammers quickly move onto others.

Today, it can be difficult to spot. Online scams have used elaborately recreated documents and imagery, purporting to be from the Australian Tax Office, a large bank, Telstra, or Centrelink, asking you to pay a debt or transfer your money. These online communications look incredibly real, and can make people feel as though they are legitimate.

Fake bills are one thing, but where it gets even murkier is how scammers can target people’s weaknesses. For example, targeting a lonely man or woman to part with their cash in an online dating scam, or convincing an elderly Australian to join a fictitious investment scheme and hand over their life savings. The impact on a person who gets caught up in a scam isn’t just financial. The stress, embarrassment, and devastation it can cause is incredibly heartbreaking.

An unfortunate fact is that just about anyone can fall into the trap. It’s not just elderly people or those who are vulnerable; there are horror stories of how everyday Australians have lost considerable amounts of money.

Tips to stay alert

From a financial perspective, the impact can be damaging, both short and long term. While for many it might be a case of thinking ‘it won’t happen to me’, the reality is that these scams will continue to evolve and may become more difficult to spot.

There are a few basic tips you can employ to avoid being scammed:

  1. Protect your personal information: Don’t simply hand out sensitive information if asked via email, such as your bank account or credit card details. Check details like your bank statements every month, looking out for charges you don’t recognise. Keep passwords and PIN numbers safe and change them regularly.
  2. If in doubt, don’t do it: If it feels like a scam, it most likely is. So, it’s worth remembering that if it doesn’t feel right, don’t rush into doing something. You can also check out the Scamwatch website run by the ACCC, which details a range of scams and provides information on what to do if you are caught out.
  3. Don’t click on something suspicious: If you don’t know the link or are unsure what it’s about, do some research first.
  1. Talk to someone you trust: If you’re unsure, check with someone close to you, like a trusted friend or adviser, before making a decision to handover money.

General Advice warningThe information provided in this blog does not constitute financial product advice. The information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for specific professional advice. Apt Wealth Partners (AFSL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) recommends that you obtain professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular requirements or circumstances.