BE ALERT: Don't get caught by scammers. Ask yourself if its for real before you provide your details.
BE ALERT: Don't get caught by scammers. Ask yourself if its for real before you provide your details.

Think before you respond - it could be a scam

SCAMMERS continue to make a significant and increasing impact on the lives of Australians. The average loss for a victim is an extraordinary $6500.

The ACCC reports scams are becoming more sophisticated and hard to spot. Scammers are using modern technology like social media to contact and deceive their victims. In recent times scammers are using aggressive techniques, both over the phone and online.

I was joined late yesterday for a Sunday afternoon cup of tea by an elderly neighbour. He was quite agitated when he knocked on the front door. Once he settled at the kitchen table, Keith started to tell a story which he openly admitted made him "scared".

Keith is in his late 80s. He lost his wife about 20 years ago, but still insists on living in the family home. Sadly, the sprightly and once outgoing gentleman has dementia.

Early last week he received a phone call purportedly from the 'Chinese Embassy'. The person at the end of the phone wanted Keith's details so that they could mail him an urgent letter. Luckily Keith didn't give them any details, but once he put down the phone he admitted to feeling very vulnerable.

Keith then made the wise move to turn to a younger neighbour to voice his concern over the request for his personal details, remembering to ask himself the vital question - is this for real? As a result of that conversation Keith took no action on the request.

Is it for real?

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard advises -

  • If you're being threatened, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if the call makes sense.
  • The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest.
  • Telstra will never need to access your computer to 'fix' a problem.
  • Centrelink will never require a fee to pay money it owes you.
  • None of these organisations will ask you to pay using iTunes gift cards.

What to do if you are not sure

  • If something doesn't feel right, hang up the phone or hit delete.
  • If the person said they are, for example, from Telstra or the ATO, find the phone number for that organisation online or in the phone book, call them and let them know about the call you received.

"They'll let you know if it's genuine or a scam," Ms Rickard added.

The ACCC's ninth annual Targeting scams report, released today, notes more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017. The total losses reported were $340 million - a $40 million increase compared to 2016.

Investment scams topped the losses at $64 million, an increase of more than 8 per cent. Dating and romance scams caused the second greatest losses at $42 million.

"It's very worrying that Australians are losing such extraordinary amounts to scammers. Based on just the reports provided to the ACCC, victims are losing an average of $6500. In some cases people have lost more than $1 million," Ms Rickard said.

Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of these threat-based impersonation scams in 2017. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.

To report a scam, go to

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