Australians are being encouraged to slow down and ask if they really know who they are communicating with, as scammers get better at impersonating businesses and organisations, robbing consumers of $92 million this year.
This Scams Awareness Week (27 November -1 December 2023), the National Anti-Scam Centre is raising awareness about impersonation scams, which accounted for more than 70% of the 234,672 reports to Scamwatch between 1 January and 30 September, 2023.
“Scammers are criminals, who use sophisticated tactics to convince their victims they are from their bank, a government agency or even a high-profile recruitment firm offering what may seem like an amazing job opportunity,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.
“That’s why we are urging consumers to take a minute and ask themselves if the person they are communicating with - whether it be online or by text, phone or email - is really who they say they are. Could it be a scammer?”
“Scammers deliberately put their victims under pressure and make them feel like they need to act quickly, such as making claims there has been suspicious activity on their bank account. Don’t rush to act. Take a moment to consider if it could be a scam,” Ms Lowe said.
Most common impersonation scams
The impersonation scams inflicting the most financial harm on Australians were imposter bond scams ($35 million lost), business email compromise scams ($14 million lost) and bank impersonation scams ($11 million lost).
The most reported impersonation scams were road toll scams (19,141 reports), Australian Government impersonation scams (17,770 reports) and “Hi Mum” family impersonation scams (9,307 reports).
Jobs and employment scams, where scammers impersonate recruitment agencies and high-profile employers, were the fastest growing scam type, with reported losses increasing by 435% to $22.7 million in the year to date.
Reports to Scamwatch showed scammers mostly contacted their victims via text message (49,572 reports), phone (10,565 reports) and online (2,904 reports).
“Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone - it’s never rude to protect yourself from scams. A person calling from a legitimate business or agency should understand if you prefer to call them back, using contact details you have sourced independently,” Ms Lowe said.
“Likewise, never click a link in a text message or open an attachment in an email if you were not expecting the text or email. We know these are tactics used by scammers to steal personal information. About 16% of all impersonation scams this year, involved a loss of personal information, which can ultimately lead to identity theft and financial losses.”
You can find more information and other key statistics on impersonation scams on the Scams Awareness Week website.
- Never send money or give your personal information, credit card, online bank or cryptocurrency account details to anyone you don’t know, especially if you’ve only met them online, through email or over the phone.
- Never click on links in text messages or open attachments in emails if you were not expecting the text or email.
- Avoid any arrangement that asks for up-front payment via bank transfer, PayID or cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
- Be cautious of anyone making contact via encrypted message platforms. These platforms are commonly used by scammers.
- Know who you are dealing with. Contact the business or organisation via phone numbers sourced from an independent internet search.
- Don’t be pressured to act quickly. A legitimate business or agency will not require you to take action immediately.
- Remember to update passwords to your online accounts regularly and use strong passwords or passphrases.
Top tips for avoiding scams
STOP – Don’t give money or personal information to anyone if you’re unsure. Scammers will create a sense of urgency. Don’t rush to act. Take your time and don’t give money or personal information.
THINK – Ask yourself could the call or text be fake? Scammers pretend to be from organisations you know and trust. Contact the organisation using information you source independently, so that you can verify if the call is real or not. If you’re not sure, hang up.
PROTECT – Act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank immediately if you lose money. If you have provided personal information call IDCARE on 1800 595 160.