Tools for consumers
ACFT promotes resources to help people spot scams before they fall for them and advice on how to keep your personal details safe. These include:
The website www.scamwatch.gov.au
Twitter account: @SCAMwatch_gov
In WA, we also have our own dedicated website: www.scamnet.wa.gov.au & Twitter account: @ConsumerWA.
You can report scams to Consumer Protection by email email@example.com or call 1300 30 40 54 to ask for advice if you have your doubts about whether an approach is a scam.
Stevie's Scam School
Consumer Affairs Victoria have once again joined forces with Stevie the reformed scammer to produce six new videos aimed at protecting consumers from common ‘advance fee fraud’ scams. Advance fee fraud happens when people are tricked into providing money ahead of a promised payment that never arrives. Stevie’s new videos explain the scammers’ tricks and give tips to avoid the most common types of advance fee fraud. To watch Stevie’s Scam School videos, visit consumer.vic.gov.au/scamschoolconsumer
A scammer says you are owed money but must pay an administration fee to release or ‘reclaim’ the money. These scams use names of governments, banks and other well-known companies and institutions to gain legitimacy. The scammer may even refer to a government incentive or rebate scheme.
Case study: A consumer called on behalf of his elderly father who had paid about $60,000 to a scammer. The scammer had told the father that the banks had overcharged customers. His bank was repaying customers to avoid bad publicity and needed to verify his details. The father was given step-by-step instructions on sending the cash via a money transfer company – including to state on the form that the money was a gift, and to dispose of transfer receipts. This continued for about a month for different amounts. The scammer told the father there was $63,000 in his account, and they would repay this plus $17,000. They said they would bring payment and statements to confirm his $80,000 balance to his house but never showed. When he called to tell the scammers to repay his money, they told him to pay a $900 cancellation fee. The consumer reported the scam to the police and Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Posing as buyers, scammers pretend to have overpaid for items – even providing fake emails from what seems to be a reputable money transfer company to support their claim. Unsuspecting sellers who send their items then reimburse the ‘overpayment’ lose both their money and goods.
A consumer advertised a caravan for sale, priced at nearly $9000. A scammer agreed to buy the caravan. They claimed to live offshore and asked the consumer to pay $750 fee for an agent to collect the caravan, promising to transfer the full payment and reimburse the agent fee within 24 hours. The consumer did not receive any money and reported the scam to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
A scammer uses a fake profile on a legitimate dating website to build a relationship, then quickly shifts to using private email, phone or instant messaging. They make up a story that exploits emotion to get money. The scammer will be persistent and, if successful, will continue to exploit the relationship.
A consumer met a woman on a dating website. She said she lived in Maribyrnong but was in Malaysia buying diamonds and gold. She requested $12,000 to pay for the rest of her purchase - she said she had paid for 70 per cent of it. This rang alarm bells with the consumer, who reported the scam to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Scammers offer ‘get rich quick’ schemes or ‘investments’ based on ‘secret’ information or sources – for example, expensive software packages that promise to predict sporting event results or share market movements. The up-front payments are high and the promised returns never eventuate.
A consumer was contacted on his mobile phone and invited to invest in a share scheme. He was not offered a contract or provided with any other information. The company purported to have an office in America and Hong Kong. The consumer was dealing with two men when making ‘investments’ that totalled more than $65,000. When he wanted to withdraw money, he was unable to contact them. The consumer then contacted Consumer Affairs Victoria for information and advice.
A scammer says you’ve won a lottery or sweepstake but must pay to claim the prize – for example, a holiday, smart phone or shopping voucher. Neither the lottery nor prize exists. The scammer may use the names of legitimate overseas lotteries to make the scam seem real.
A consumer received a text message saying she had won $250,000 and a car. The consumer was asked to contact a person in the UK via email. The scammer asked her to pay a fee of a few hundred dollars to release the prize, then claimed taxes and an inland revenue fee had to be paid. The consumer ended up sending the scammer more than $21,000. Consumer Affairs Victoria was contacted for advice and to report the scam.
Scammers advertise bogus rental properties on legitimate websites. They make the offer look genuine by including photos, using real property addresses and other tricks. They ask for upfront payment of rent or deposit via money transfer, and for personal details that they can use to commit credit card and identify fraud.
A consumer placed an online advertisement seeking a property to rent. Within a day, a scammer (who claimed to be overseas) offered her a house. She went to look at the outside of the property, which appeared to be vacant. The scammer sent her a lease agreement and bond form, and asked her to pay a $1200 bond via a money transfer service. She paid the bond – but never received the keys as promised. This example of a rental scam shows a common ploy, where the scammer uses a vacant property (possibly advertised as a rental elsewhere) and claims to be overseas.