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Get started: How to spot a scam

Get started: How to spot a scam, with Money Bites
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Money Bite-Size Read:

  • We are seeing more scams flooding our inboxes and phones.
  • It’s important to know what a scam looks like and what to do if they contact you.
  • Here’s how to spot a scam so that you can identify scams and stop scammers from stealing your money.

The Money Bites Take:

We want more people to know how to spot a scam to keep your hard-earned money out of the hands of scammers.

Have you ever been targeted by a scam?

It may be a suspicious phone call or a text message from a number you don’t recognise. In the month of writing, Australians reported scam approaches over the internet, phone, in-person, and even on social media channels. These approaches might seem legitimate, but something about them just feels off. So trust your gut feeling that something is wrong because you’re probably right.

Scammers are organised criminals.

They thrive on you being polite, considerate and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, scams change over time and are also becoming more sophisticated and harder to spot. We want more money to stay in your wallet and improve your sense of financial security by talking about scams and how they operate.

 

Here’s how to spot a scam to deny the spammers access to your cash:

 

1. Know what they are aiming to do

The ultimate aim of the scammer is to access your money. They do this by getting your details to steal money from your account or asking you to transfer money. They can even use call line or ID spoofing so that it looks like they are calling from a local number as you’re more likely to pick up the phone or use a number you may recognise so that you give them your personal information.

 

2. Understand what a scam looks like

Scammers often contact you out of the blue and apply one of two things: Pressure or promise. They pressure you to take action now to give them your personal or financial details, with the promise of a threat like being arrested if you don’t do what they say. They also promise a reward for action, such as the bitcoin scam where they fraudulently use the images of celebrities to sell you fake investment returns. These pressure tactics rely on you being compliant, so stop them in their tracks by hanging up straight away.

 

3. If in doubt, delete or hang up immediately

If you receive a phone completely out of the blue from someone purporting to be from a government agency and threatening you, hang up. This gives you time to think about the request. Scammers try and take that thought process away from you by pressuring you to act. If you want to contact a government organisation or bank to check what is said, hang up the call. Instead, look up the number from a verifiable, independent source and call the organisation directly.

 

4. Ask yourself whether what they say makes sense

You must stop the communication, pause and ask yourself whether it makes sense. A government body will not threaten you with arrest over the phone. Your bank doesn’t need you to transfer money out of your account. A delivery company will not threaten you over text messages. Ask yourself whether the communication makes logical sense or whether it might be a scam.

Here’s an example of a dating scam in action: I got an email from a man who was looking for love and, for whatever reason, had decided that he was in love with me. The problem was that Derek* had never met me; he was far too good looking, and to be frank, any man so desperate for love that he’s resorting to cold-emailing potential suitors had more need of an intense therapy session than romance. Nevertheless, something felt off, so I reported the email. It turned out that the impossibly good-looking Derek was a google image search result for “handsome soldier” and was not a real person. Unfortunately, these romance scams are common and you need to take ego out of the equation and ask yourself whether it makes sense that they are contacting you before you respond.

*Derek’s name has been changed because Derek is not a real person.

 

5. What should I do when contacted by a scammer?

If someone contacts you and you get that gut feeling that something feels off, delete the communication without clicking on any links or hang up the phone. If you have provided any sensitive information by accident, contact your bank immediately and get the phone number from a verifiable source. Take the time to report the scam to your national consumer protection agency, which in Australia is Scamwatch. They will let other people know about the scam so that fewer people fall victim to the scammers.

Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, just hang up the phone.

You are not rude for choosing to protect yourself and your financial security. Trust your gut if something feels wrong, and take the time to ask yourself whether something makes sense before you take action.

Written by Kate Crowhurst

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