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Protect Yourself From Scams

Greg Medcraft
17th September, 2014

Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. Most scams seem like genuine offers but are carefully designed to trick you into giving away your money or personal details. Below are some of the tactics used by scammers, and some things you can do to protect yourself.

Tactics scammers use include:

  • Making you feel obliged: Scammers use persuasion and psychological tactics. Some may offer a gift to make you feel obliged to do what they ask.
  • Pressuring you to get in before the offer ends: Terms like ‘last chance’ or ‘limited offer’ are often used to make you act fast. Scammers don’t want to give you any time to check if their offer is real before you commit.
  • Getting to know you: Scammers know that if they develop a relationship with you, you are more likely to go along with what they suggest. Some scammers access church or community groups so they can recruit new victims on the testimony of others already in the scheme.
  • Claiming to be professionals: Scammers will say they are approved by or associated with a reputable organization or government agency to convince you of their legitimacy. They will also use slick brochures and websites to appear professional.
  • Making persistent phone calls: Scammers can call you endlessly or try to keep you on the phone for a long time. As long as they can keep you talking you have not really said no.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself.

Do your own checks: Always do your own research on a company before you deal with them. Seek independent professional or legal advice so you are not relying solely on the information the potential scammer gives you. Where relevant you can check the company’s Australian financial services licence or Australian credit licence number by searching ASIC Connect’s Professional Registers. You can also check ASIC’s list of companies you should not deal with.

Ask the right questions: Ask the person making you an offer for details of the company they represent, its address and its licence number or ABN. If they avoid answering, the deal they are offering is probably a scam. If they answer your questions, be cautious and do your own checks on their answers.

Protect your personal information: Don’t give out any personal, banking or credit card information to anyone who makes contact with you.

Reduce telemarketing calls: Put your name on the Do Not Call Register to remove your name from telemarketing phone lists.

Be on guard about every offer that is made to you. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The best defence against scams is to hang up the phone, delete the email or destroy the letter if you think it looks even vaguely like a scam.

ASIC’s MoneySmart website (moneysmart.gov.au) has more information about common types of scams, where to report them and what to do if you have been scammed.

Greg Medcraft
Chairman
Australian Securities and Investments Commission

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