September 2014: SCAMwatch is urging Indigenous consumers, especially those living in rural and remote communities, to be on the lookout for scammers trying to trick you into handing over your personal details or money.
The top three scams that Indigenous consumers have reported to SCAMwatch this year are:
- Government or business affiliation scams – scammers claiming to represent a well-known and trusted organisation with false claims that they are entitled to money
- Phishing scams – scammers 'fishing' for personal details or money
- Online shopping scams – scammers taking people for a ride when buying or selling online.
Scammers are also known to approach people and communities with more sophisticated scams where they offer huge amounts of money – sometimes even millions of dollars. These fraudsters will claim that you've won a prize, are entitled to an inheritance or need help with getting money out of their country. They may even claim that they can assist with funds to support your community, but the money doesn't exist and there are always fees to be paid.
Scammers typically ask targets to send them money via a money transfer service as it's hard to trace and nearly impossible to recover. Be on guard – requests for payments may not happen straight away, with scammers prepared to invest considerable time, sometimes weeks or months, before asking for money.
SCAMwatch also urges traditional owners, shire and council officers or individuals to be vigilant – unfortunately, scammers often target respected community figures in positions of authority. For instance, the ACCC's North Queensland office is currently working with indigenous communities that have recently been approached by scammers pedalling advance fee fraud schemes.
Watch out – if someone approaches you or your community with an offer that seems too good to be true, say no and walk away. If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, don't feel shame – report it the ACCC through the Indigenous Hotline: 1300 303 143.
What to look out for
Here are some common scams that Indigenous consumers report to SCAMwatch:
- Government affiliation scams – someone will ring, email or send you a letter pretending to represent a government authority such as Centrelink or the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They will claim that you are entitled to money, but that you first have to pay them money to cover 'taxes' or 'fees'. If you pay, you will never receive the promised money, nor see the money you sent again.
- Phishing scams – you receive a call or email from someone claiming that you need to update or verify your personal details, e.g. you bank card has been cancelled and you need to reactive it. Typical information requested include your date of birth, bank details, driver's licence, Medicare or tax file number. They may even ask you to visit a website or click on a link, which will result in your computer being infected with malware. If you hand over your details, the scammer may commit ID theft or use it to steal your money.
- Online shopping scams – an item is advertised on an online classifieds site at a very low price, often lower than comparable items advertised on the same website. The seller typically claims to be overseas and will ask you to complete the sale outside of the site, e.g. by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. If you are buying something that seems to be 'too good to be true', beware!
- If you have doubts about the identity of a caller who claims to represent a government authority or business, contact them directly. Don't rely on contact details provided by the person – find their details through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
- If someone you don't know is asking for personal information or money, don't engage – press 'delete', shut the door or just hang up.
- Don't open any attachments, click on any links or reply to suspicious emails – they may take you to a bogus website or contain a dangerous virus.
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
- Don't trust the legitimacy of an ad just because it appears on a well-known and trusted online shopping site—scammers post fake ads on these too. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Wherever possible, avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for upfront payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer service such as Western Union. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
- If you think you've spotted a scam, tell us about it (see contact details below), and help protect your family and friends by spreading the word.
Report and tell others – don't feel shame
Tell someone if you think you've been scammed – don't feel shame.
You can report scams to the ACCC Indigenous Hotline on 1300 303 143.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch report a scam page or by calling 1300 795 995.
Check out and 'like' the ACCC 'Your Rights Mob' Indigenous consumers Facebook profile.
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