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Learn how to spot scam red flags and what to do if you suspect you've been targeted by scammers.

An elderly women looks at her phone, while sitting at a desk. In front of her is a potted plant, stacked on top of books

What is a scam?

Scams are more common than ever. Most scams are offering something that sounds too good to be true.  Scams can be fraudulent schemes promising large sums of money, often from foreign countries, where they ask you for some type of service or fee to be paid before they give you payment.  Scams can also be disguised as a ‘free trial’ offer in which they want your payment details before they give you the ‘free trial’. Scammers will play on your emotions and goodwill to convince you to send money or provide banking details and codes that should be kept private.

How scammers make contact

Scammers may contact you via mail, email, SMS, telephone, social media, eBay or even door-knocking.

Common scams

Remote access scams

Remote access scams occur when you allow someone to access your computer or mobile device by clicking on a link, a pop up or downloading an application or program. 

Scammers call and, for example, pretend they are from the technical support team of a well-known business or service provider, such as Telstra/NBN, PayPal, Amazon, eBay, or a bank or a fraud team.

Scammers will ask you to download a program that allows them to access your computer remotely.

Phone/WhatsApp ‘family’ scams

You receive a message from a number you don't know claiming to be your child or family member who has lost their phone and needs money transferred. This is actually a scammer looking to get you to transfer money or give personal details. If you receive a suspicious SMS or Whatsapp message from a 'family member' that you think might be fraudulent, do not respond. Try to call your family member and ask if they sent you a message to confirm.

An example of a family text message scam. The text message reads "My phones broke mum I have a new number, message me on whatsapp please its urgent"

Bank Impersonation scams

Fairly recent scam trend where scammers send text messages & emails with Bank Australia branding or wording. Typically followed by a phone call from the 'Fraud team', sometimes gaining remote access or persuading you into processing transfers yourself.

Usual story involves account security or a 'sting operation'.

Branded investment scams

Scammers might pose as stock brokers or portfolio managers and pretend to work for well-known investment firms. Their documents might have bank brands on them that look real. Their website may look legitimate and they often use convincing sales documents. If you come across an investment that looks too good to be true, do not invest any money. Contact the bank offering it through another channel to confirm it is a legitimate offer.

Learn more about treasury bond investment scams.

Example of a scam booklet

Romance / friendship scams

Scammers enter into genuine-seeming romantic relationships and try to build trust and emotional connection, before presenting an urgent request for money (eg. investment opportunity or urgent medical treatment). Some common phrases used by these scammers are, ‘we are sharing the secrets of life’ or 'this can be our secret'. Scammers might also say 'I'm so embarrassed, please don't tell anyone' in an attempt to isolate you from telling family and friends who might pick up on the scam.

Car purchase scams

The scammer poses as a car dealership and provides their own BSB and bank account (usually via email) to receive your payment when ‘purchasing’ a car. Make sure you call or visit the dealership directly to check these numbers and make sure you’re not being scammed.

Other scams to look out for

Business email scams

Scammers hack in to a business's email accounts and send messages from that email address, which are hidden within the system so the owner doesn’t see them, or from a different email address that looks almost identical so it is difficult to distinguish. They then edit emails to add their own bank account details for a purchase, so when the customer makes the payment thinking they are sending to the legitimate business, the money ends up going into the wrong account. Car purchases and other large payments are often targeted.

Online shopping scams

Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site. Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even a ‘.com.au’ domain name and stolen Australian Business Number (ABN). The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, but if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item.

Free trial scams

A free trial scam is when a company advertises a free product and claims you only need to pay for shipping and handling, or to try something for 'free' when in reality the target is gaining your credit card or other details. Free trial scams are usually conducted online, often through social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. You might be asked to complete a survey or pass on an offer to others before you can claim a voucher or other 'reward', or enter a competition.

Job scams

Jobs and employment scams trick you into handing over your money by offering you a ‘guaranteed’ way to make fast money or a high-paying job for little effort. The scammer contacts you by email, letter or phone and offers you a job that requires very little effort for high returns, or a guaranteed way to make money quickly.  You may even come across false job opportunities on classified ad websites. If you provide your account details the scammer may use them to steal your money or commit other fraudulent activities.

What to do

If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, or you find yourself the victim of a scam, contact us on 132 888 immediately so we can take precautions to protect your account.

You can protect yourself further by reading about scams affecting others in the community, and the methods scammers are using to try to trick people, visitingscamwatch.gov.au.  Scamwatch also offers an email alert service to help you stay one step ahead.

Meet the Bank Australia staffer who spotted an online scam

A person holding a phone with Bank Australia digital banking on the screen