We’ve all seen media reports about ordinary Australians losing their entire savings after responding to a phone, email or mail offer that was impossible to resist. We can help you identify what to watch out for.

Financial stings have become a serious threat to Australian consumers and businesses. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says almost six million Australians are exposed to scams and frauds during any given year.

According to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s (ACCC), Scamwatch website, a total of $30,805,631 has been lost to the end of May this year already with almost 65,000 reports received. The report shows investment schemes and dating scams account for the biggest losses to date - accounting for $18 million between them - with those aged between 45 and 64 recording the largest losses.

Identity theft scams involve someone stealing another person’s identity and doing things with it from cleaning out bank accounts to taking out fake mortgages. But scams can come in many guises, including:

  • online account and money transfer scams
  • health and medical scams
  • superannuation scams
  • get-rich-quick scams
  • lottery and competition scams.

What to look for?

Scammers know and use all sorts of tricks to entice the vulnerable but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Let’s look at investment scams...

Scammers usually make contact out of the blue with a blanket offer and use tactics to pressure you into the deal. These “professionals” try to make their offer look as genuine as possible and most will have any or all of the following features:

  • quick, high returns and sometimes tax-free
  • no-risk for the investor
  • mention well-known companies or people (that are actually not involved)
  • discounts for early-bird investors or special allocations not available through anyone else.

Investment scams can appear very professional on the surface. By the time the victim realises the offer was too good to be true, the scammer has disappeared with their money.

What should you do?

If you receive a call or email always check the validity of the offer and provider, by asking the provider:

  • What is your name and what company do you represent?
  • Does your company have an Australian Financial Services licence and what is the licence number?
  • What is your physical address?

If the caller can’t or won’t provide these details, it will be a scam. If they do answer, take down the details and check the Australian Securities and Investment Commission list on its MoneySmart website or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) SCAMwatch site before making any decisions.

Be proactive

Some scams aren’t as obvious so always protect your personal information. Never give out bank details or transfer money to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Always check your statements and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institutions. Make sure your computer and mobile devices are protected with strong passwords, anti-virus software and firewalls.

And beat the scammers at their own game – if you are contacted by one of these fraudsters, immediately report it to the ACCC via scamwatch.gov.au or phone 1300 795 995. Hopefully the scammer will end up the victim instead.


SCAMwatch website 

MoneySmart website 

ABS (2011) Catalogue 4528.0 Personal Fraud, available at abs.gov.au

Related topics