Stay vigilant: Scams on the rise during the pandemic

Published on: June 29th, 2021

It’s a sad reality today that many Australians are targeted by financial scams. It’s something we’ve talked about before, but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that scams are on the rise – and getting more sophisticated.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australians lost more than $851 million to scams in 2020, a record amount – and this only accounts for reported losses.  Further, $9.8 million of these losses were related to scams that mentioned coronavirus, leveraging the climate of uncertainty. Some of these even offer early, paid access to vaccines, playing on health concerns.

Scams are getting more sophisticated 

A few years ago, some of the most common scams were offering large sums of money from developing nations or significant wins on lotteries you didn’t enter, and these were much easier to spot.

Today, scammers pretend to be anything from your super fund to your bank or even the Australian Tax Office.  They have also spread from email to mobile phones, with messages and phone calls purporting to be from Australia Post or other recognisable bodies. When a recipient clicks on a link in such an email or text message, the results can be disastrous; from stealing your financial information or your identity to holding your data to ransom.

We are also seeing a rise in classified scams, where a fake seller or buyer offers to do business with you, so tread carefully, trust your instincts and seek advice from friends or family before you act.

Romance scams are on the rise

At a time when lockdowns are leading to increased mental health issues and loneliness, it’s no surprise that dating scams are also on the rise. These scams really hit people hard, targeting emotions to drive you to give money or overshare your personal details to steal your identity. They often pull on the heartstrings with sob stories designed to make you feel bad if you don’t help.

If you haven’t met the person face-to-face (not on Zoom!), that’s the first red flag. Even when you have met the person, take the time to get to know them, and if they make a request that feels wrong, speak to someone you trust before you comply.

Verify before you act

Most importantly, never act on communication that is not from someone you know or is entirely unexpected or unusual.  If you receive a phone call, message or email purporting to be from a company or government body, don’t act on it. Instead, look up the genuine contact details on the company’s website and call them to verify.  Importantly, never call a number or email a contact provided on the communication.

If it’s real and you need to act, you’ve only taken a few minutes to verify, and the company or government body will be fine with you taking this action – it’s prudent in today’s climate. And if it’s not genuine, you have likely saved yourself money and heartache.

Remember, a genuine caller or sender will never threaten you with adverse consequences for taking the time to verify.

Don’t share your personal information

This might sound obvious, but scammers have insidious ways to get information from you. For example, those “fun” games on social media that ask you to share things like your first pet’s name, your favourite sports team or your hometown are a sneaky way to get answers to common security questions. These do the rounds regularly, but remember, it’s not all fun and games.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

It’s an old adage, but one that is certainly truer than ever. If you receive an offer, whether romantic or financial, that you aren’t expecting and doesn’t feel right – ignore the communication and consider reporting it to avoid others being caught in the trap.

Stay informed and inform your loved ones

The government website, Scamwatch, is a great resource to stay up to date with the latest scams and ensure you can act vigilantly. There is even a newsletter alert you can receive to makes sure you have all the latest information.

It’s also important to keep your loved ones safe. These scams often target the most vulnerable in our community, from the elderly to those with a disability. If you have someone in your life who might be more exposed to these risks, make sure you keep them informed, and if appropriate, provide support or a sounding board they can talk to if they aren’t sure what to do.

If you are asked to make a financial transaction that doesn’t seem right, you can always contact your Apt Adviser for advice too. We are here to help you make the right financial and life moves, and sadly, these scams are designed to trap you into making the wrong ones. Unfortunately, we have had clients who have been targeted by these scams, and we understand that it can happen to anyone, so if you are worried you might be making an unwise move, seek advice.

General Advice warning

The 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 and ACL 436121 ABN 49 159 583 847) and Apt Wealth Home Loans (powered by Smartline ACL 385325) recommends that you obtain professional advice before making any decision in relation to your particular requirements or circumstances.