The Morning Show has partnered with Westpac for this story.
Scamming is big business for organised crime – costing Australian’s $2.5 billion in the past decade.
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Now, Westpac is urging people to stay alert following a spike in deceptive activity since the start of the pandemic.
Australians have already lost $2.4 million to COVID-19 related scams.
And fraudsters are using all the tricks in the book to swindle unsuspecting Aussies into handing over their hard-earned cash.
“Scams increased last year by 30 per cent according to the ACCC,” said Ben Young, Head of Fraud at Westpac.
“Westpac actually noted a promising reduction in scams after this, but with the arrival of COVID, it has jumped back up again.
“It is really important for people to be vigilant.”
Types of COVID scams
“Some of the new scams at the moment are text messages, reportedly from the government around your nearest COVID-19 testing location or tax refunds,” Young said.
“There are also the usual bank-related scams asking you to update details and text messages with links in them that you shouldn’t be clicking.
“Isolation and financial insecurity are not a good combination when it comes to scam prevention.
“Colleagues, friends and family are obviously great sources of comfort, but they’re also a really good second opinion on situations that you perhaps might not spot on your own.
“Online romance scams and ‘get rich quick’ schemes perhaps seem a little bit more enticing to some at present.”
Most common scams
“Far and away the most common scam we see is what we call remote access scams,” Young said.
“These are usually the phone calls you get where the scammer pretends to be from a familiar business like a tech company or telecommunications company to help with your computer or fix the NBN.
“The giveaway with these scams is that they claim the best way to help you is for them to remotely connect your computer to give that assistance.
“The problem is that the moment they connect to your computer, they can steal your personal information and money as well.
“More than 50 per cent of scams reported to Westpac are this type of scam.
“Another one that is probably less common but more expensive, particularly for young people during COVID, has been investment scams.
“These are delivered from social media with a fake celebrity endorsement, offering high returns on dedicated platforms.
“The giveaway with these is that they want you to load them not with Australian dollars but with bitcoin – which should be a big red flag for anyone that gets these offers.”
Spotting a scam
“Scammers are quick to adopt new technology – they’re the first people to use social media, robocalling, and digital currencies,” Young said.
“It allows them to customise scams for all demographics.
“Some of the common themes are threats, intimidation, or an insistence that a matter needs to be resolved immediately.
“Offers to help you with your computer by connecting remotely is a huge red flag.
“Amongst romance scams, there’s excuses to not talk or have FaceTime calls – common stories are they’re working on an oil rig or their webcam is permanently broken.
“Any transaction that’s performed in bitcoin or iTunes vouchers are also red flags.”
Staying scam savvy
Westpac has also recently implemented new scam-detection technology, which alerts Westpac branch employees in real-time when payments are being processed so that suspicious transactions can be identified and investigated on the spot before any funds are transferred from the customer.
But it’s important for consumers to remain ‘scam savvy’.
“For any of these unsolicited calls, don’t be afraid to hang up,” Young said.
“Any credible company will expect some suspicion when there is an outbound call, and they will be more than happy for you to hang up and call back on your own terms.
“The more insistent a caller is that you deal with something right now, the more confident you should be in your decision to hang up.
“Don’t keep things a secret. If you have uncovered the love of your life or an investment opportunity, talk to your friends and family about it.
“Sometimes, just saying things out loud can make you reconsider what you might be involved in.”
To keep up to date with the latest scams and to find out how you can protect yourself and stay safe online, visit www.westpac.com.au/security.
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