How to protect yourself
Almost everyone will be approached by a scammer at some stage. Some scams are very easy to spot while other scams may appear to be genuine offers or bargains. Scams can even take place without you doing anything at all.
Most scams need you to do something before they can work. You may send money to someone based on a promise that turns out to be false. You may give your personal details to people who turn out to be scammers. Some scams rely on you agreeing to deals without getting advice first or buying a product without checking it out properly.
The simple tips below will help you protect yourself and your family from scams. Scams can cost people a lot of money and cause a great deal of distress. By following these simple tips, you can protect yourself against scams.
- Golden rules
- Digging a little deeper
- Protect your identity
- Sending or transferring money
- Dealing with a face-to-face approach
- Telephone traps
- Dealing with suspicious or unsolicited offers sent by email or SMS
- Internet tips
- Protecting your business
- Keeping children safe online: Cybersmart
- Find out more about scams
- If it looks too good to be true—it probably is.
- ALWAYS get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment.
- Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: the only people who make money are the scammers.
- Do not agree to offers or deals straight away: tell the person that you are not interested or that you want to get some independent advice before making a decision.
- You can contact your local office of fair trading, ASIC or the ACCC for assistance.
- NEVER send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust.
- Check your bank account and credit card statements when you get them. If you see a transaction you cannot explain, report it to your credit union or bank.
- Keep your credit and ATM cards safe. Do not share your personal identity number with anyone. Do not keep any written copy of your PIN with the card.
Digging a little deeper
- Do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions about money or investments: always get independent financial advice.
- Read all the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully: claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.
- Make sure you know how to stop any subscription service you want to sign up to.
- Be very careful about offers for medicines, supplements or other treatments: always seek the advice of your health care professional.
- Remember there are no magic pills or safe options for rapid weight loss.
- Beware of products or schemes that claim to guarantee income or winnings.
- If someone offers you an investment or other financial service, ask for their Australian Financial Services Licence number: check this with ASIC.
- Be wary of investments promising a high return with little or no risk.
- Beware of job offers that require you to pay an upfront fee.
Protect your identity
- Only give out your personal details and information where it is absolutely necessary and where you have initiated the contact and trust the other party.
- Destroy personal information, don’t just throw it out. You should cut up, burn or shred old bills, statements or cards so scammers can not get your personal details from them later.
- Treat your personal details as you would treat money: don’t leave them lying around for others to take.
- Order a free copy of your credit report every year to make sure no one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts.
Sending or transferring money
- Never send money to anyone you are not totally sure about.
- Do not send any money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings.
- Money laundering is a criminal offence: do not agree to transfer money for someone else.
- Make sure that cheques have been cleared by your bank before transferring or wiring any refunds or overpayments back to the sender.
- Do not pass on chain letters or take part in pyramid schemes: you will lose your money and could lose your friends.
Dealing with a face-to-face approach
- If someone comes to your door, ask to see their identification. You do not have to let them in and they MUST leave if you ask them to.
- Contact your local fair trading agency if you are unsure about an offer or trader.
- Remember that family members and friends may try to involve you in a scam without realising that it is a scam: you should seek independent advice (from a lawyer or financial adviser).
- If you receive a phone call out of the blue, always ask for the name of the person you are speaking to and who they represent.
- Do not give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
- It is best not to respond to text messages or missed calls that come from numbers you don’t recognise.
- Be careful of phone numbers beginning with 190. These are charged at a premium rate and can be very expensive.
- Look out for SMS and MMS numbers that start with 19. These are charged at a premium rate (sometimes even for receiving a message) and can be very expensive.
Dealing with suspicious or unsolicited offers sent by email or SMS
- Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam): delete them.
- Do not click on any links in a spam email or open any files attached to them.
- Never call a telephone number that you see in a spam email or SMS.
- NEVER reply to a spam email or SMS (even to unsubscribe).
- Talk to your internet service provider about spam filtering or, alternatively, purchase spam-filtering software.
- If you want to access an internet account website, use a bookmarked link or type the address in yourself: NEVER follow a link in an email.
- Install software that protects your computer from viruses and unwanted programs and make sure it is kept up-to-date.
- Beware of free websites and downloads (such as music, adult sites, games and movies). They may install harmful programs without you knowing.
- Check the website address carefully. Scammers often set up fake websites with very similar addresses.
- Never enter your personal, credit card or online account information on a website that you are not certain is genuine.
- Never send your personal, credit card or online account details by email.
- Try to avoid using public computers (at libraries or internet cafes) to do your internet banking.
- Do not use software on your computer that auto-completes online forms. This can give internet scammers easy access to your personal and credit card details.
- Choose passwords that would be difficult for anyone else to guess.
Protecting your business
- Never give out or clarify any information about your business unless you know what the information will be used for.
- Never agree to any business proposal on the phone: always ask for an offer in writing.
- Try to avoid having a large number of people authorised to make orders or pay invoices.
- Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice.
- Make sure the business billing you is the one you normally deal with.
- If you are unsure about any part of a business offer, ask for more information or seek independent advice.
Keeping children safe online: Cybersmart
The Cybersmart program is a national cybersafety education program managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). It provides a comprehensive range of information, resources and presentations designed to meet the needs of children, parents, teachers and library staff.
The ACMA Cybersmart website is home to all its cybersafety resources, research and activities. For more information, visit Cybersmart or contact the Cybersafety Contact Centre on 1800 880 176.