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Five Ways to Pick an Online Scam

Delia Rickard
17th August, 2014

In 2013, more than 91,000 people reported scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, an increase of nearly ten per cent. The reported financial losses totalled almost $90 million, representing a slight decrease from 2012.

Beyond the headline figures, our recent Scam Activity Report identified some alarming trends. Dating and romance scams moved to number one in terms of financial losses, with more than $25 million reported lost. The number of people reporting phishing and identity theft scams climbed by 73 per cent. Overall, scams delivered online wreaked the most havoc with reported losses totalling more than $41 million.

The common thread behind these types of scams is that victims don’t really know who they are dealing with. Intelligence gathered by the ACCC shows scammers are highly skilled at building deceptive relationships. They invest weeks, months or even years developing trust before striking, leaving a trail of financial ruin and untold personal stress.

How do you tell if there person you’re dealing with online is friend or foe? The ACCC has released a ‘Scam Identifier List’ to help you identify and disengage from a scammer online.

  1. You’ve never met or seen them: Scammers will say anything to avoid a ‘face-to-face’ meeting, whether it be in person or over the internet via a video chat – don’t excuse it away.
  2. They’re not who they appear to be: Scammers steal photos and profiles from real people to create an appealing facade. Run a Google Image search on photos and search words in their description to check if they’re the real deal.
  3. They ask to chat with you privately: Scammers will try and move the conversation away from the scrutiny of community platforms to a one-on-one interaction such as email or phone – ‘walk’ away if this happens to you.
  4. You don’t know a lot about them: Scammers are keen to get to know you as much as possible, but are less forthcoming about themselves. Ask yourself, ‘how well do I really know this person?’
  5. They ask you for money: Once the connection has been made – be it as a friend, admirer, or business partner – scammers will ask you to transfer money. Don’t fall for a tall tale, not matter how plausible it sounds.

To find out about the latest types of scams and how to protect yourself sign-up to the SCAMwatch radar at www.scamwatch.gov.au or follow us on Twitter @scamwatch_gov

Delia Rickard
Deputy Chair
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

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