National Scams Awareness Week
Scams Awareness Week - previously National Consumer Fraud Week - is an education and awareness campaign run by the Scams Awareness Network (SAN)
This Scams Awareness Week (21–25 May 2018), Australians are urged to be on the lookout for threat-based impersonation scams by taking a moment to ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’
In these scams, scammers pretend to be from a government agency or well-known company. Their aim is to scare you into parting with your money or personal information and if you don’t, they threaten you with fines, disconnecting your internet, taking you to court, arrest or even deportation.
At Westpac, we're working all the time to better safeguard your financial and personal information. The below information can help you to better protect yourself against scams.
Keep in mind the following tips to protect yourself:
- When dealing with uninvited contacts from government agencies or trusted businesses – whether over the phone, by email, mail, in person or through social media – always consider the possibility that it may be a scam.
- Verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search, then get in touch with them to ask if they contacted you. Don’t use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message sent to you.
- Never send money, give your banking or credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust, and never share these details by email or over the phone.
- Know that a government agency or trusted business will never ask you to pay them with gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or Bitcoin.
- Don’t open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – just delete them. These could infect your computer with malware.
- Never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue – whether through a phone call, pop up window or email – and even if they claim to be from a well-known company like Telstra.
Register for Australian Government’s SCAMwatch email alert to get updates on the latest types of scams targeting Australian consumers and small business.
You can find out
If you’ve lost money or given your personal details to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss.
- If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact us immediately.
- If you’ve given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE (www.idcare.org), Australia and New Zealand’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service. IDCARE can work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process.
- Take the time to warn your friends and family about these scams.
For more information about these scams, where to get help or to report a scam, visit the Scamwatch website.
The following case studies show just some of the methods used by these scammers.
(These case studies are from scam reports submitted to the ACCC’s Scamwatch. All victims agreed to share their story when submitting their report and their personal details have been changed.)
You owe the Tax Office
Eliza received a call from someone saying they were from the Australian Taxation Office and that she was being charged with tax fraud. The ‘Tax Office’ told Eliza she owed them $4900 and if she didn’t pay an initial instalment of $500, a warrant for her arrest would be issued and she could face jail. Eliza immediately panicked, as she is a single parent from the UK with a 10-year-old son and no other family in Australia. She burst into tears and couldn’t think properly. The ‘Tax Office’ said she had to make a decision whether to pay now or be arrested within 24 hours. So Eliza gave the ‘Tax Office’ her credit card details. She was then told she’d receive a text message with a passcode which she had to provide so the arrest warrant could be stopped. Eliza was also told a taxation officer would visit her the next day with all the relevant paperwork advising how to pay back her full debt. However, as soon as Eliza gave the ‘Tax Office’ the passcode, she ran to the bank as she had begun to worry she’d been scammed. The bank teller confirmed that two withdrawals had been made from her account, totalling $4900. Eliza’s conversation with the ‘Tax Office’ lasted over an hour and in that time, she was in complete shock and disbelief at what she was being threatened with. When the ‘Tax Office’ mentioned the possible loss of her Australian passport and being deported back to England, Eliza simply panicked, otherwise she would never have provided any of her financial details.
You will be deported in two hours
Sanjeet’s wife, Maya, had arrived in Australia six months prior. Early one morning, Maya received a call from a ‘David Wilson’ who said he worked for ‘Australian Immigration’ in New Delhi. He said when Maya was leaving India, she gave the wrong date of birth on her immigration form, so she was going to be deported back to India within two hours. ‘David’ asked Maya to pay $930 which would mean she could be allocated a lawyer to fight her case while she remained in Australia. Maya was unsure whether to believe ‘David’ but he recited the details that she and Sanjeet had provided to the Immigration Department for a partner visa. He also told Maya to go to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website and check the phone number there to see if she was receiving the call from the same number – and the numbers were the same. Maya became very scared and believed him. ‘David’ then convinced Maya to make a transaction via Western Union. He remained on the phone with her for about three hours and that entire time, prohibited her from putting his call on mute, calling Sanjeet or talking to anyone in a language other than English. After Maya transferred the $930, ‘David’ asked for payment of a ‘case closing fee’. Maya said she couldn’t do that because she didn’t have any more money. ‘David’ made several more attempts but when he failed to get any more money from Maya, he admitted that he had just scammed her.
Chinese Embassy investigation
Jason Zhang received a call, in Mandarin, from ‘Li Jun’ who advised he was from the Chinese Embassy. Li Jun explained that Jason is being investigated for illegal activity, relating to their passport and if he didn’t comply he will be arrested and deported. Li Jun warned Jason that to avoid jail or deportation, he would need to pay a large sum of money to get a ‘priority investigation’ to clear his name. Li Jun asked Jason to confirm his address, passport number and banking details. Jason paid to have the priority investigation started but then after speaking with friends and family, he realised that others had received similar calls and was worried it may have been a scam. He contacted the embassy using the contact details on their website and found there was no outstanding issue or investigation, and that he had been scammed.
You have an infringement notice
Anthony received an email apparently from the Australian Federal Police as it featured the agency’s logo. The email said that he had been issued with an infringement notice for a violation such as speeding, illegal parking or toll evasion. It also stated that if Anthony didn’t pay the fine within 28 days, enforcement action would be taken and he could be prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court. The email Anthony received included a file with the actual infringement notice and specific details of his violation which he tried to download. However, the file was corrupted. His computer security software alerted him there was a security threat and disabled the file.
Pay a penalty or lose your pension
Danielle’s mother-in-law, Rosa, was called by someone claiming to be from Centrelink. ‘Centrelink’ told Rosa she had not replied to their letters requesting information so she had to pay a $300 penalty. Of course, Rosa had never received any such letters. The caller spoke very quickly and told Rosa that her file had now been sent to the Canberra office and she would need to buy $300 of iTunes cards to cover the penalty for not responding to their letters. If Rosa did this, her file would be returned to her local Centrelink office. If she didn’t, ‘Centrelink’ threatened to stop her pension altogether. Rosa didn’t know what iTunes cards were so she asked if she could pay the penalty by cash or credit card. The caller said that wasn’t possible and harassed Rosa into buying the iTunes cards by telling her where to go to get them and how to get there. Rosa finally agreed and was told that someone would call her back for the codes on the backs of the cards. Rosa was also given a number, supposedly in Centrelink’s Canberra office, to call if she had any concerns. And she was told she had an appointment at her local Centrelink at 11:00 am the following Monday with a ‘Sylvia Johnson’ to discuss the situation. After talking to her daughter-in-law, Rosa realised this was a scam, however, she had given her pension number to the caller which she then reported to Centrelink.
Business scam - Request to update supplier account details
John works as an accounts manager for a local manufacturing business. Late on a Friday afternoon, he received an email which appeared to be from one of his regular suppliers, Mr Liu from Zhang-Fei Industries, a ball bearings supplier in Asia. Mr Liu’s email explained that due to a change in their internal finance system, he needed John to update their banking details, including a new account number.
John took the email at face value and changed the banking information in his company’s database. A few days later, John made a scheduled payment to Zhang-Fei Industries for $17,000.Two weeks later the ball bearings from Zheng Fei Industries had not arrived so John telephoned Mr Liu. Mr Liu said he hadn’t received payment for the last order and had consequently cancelled shipment. John told Mr Liu that he had processed the payment personally to make sure it was paid according to the new arrangements.
After some investigation it became clear that Mr Liu had not sent any request to update his company’s banking details and John had fallen victim to a scam. In the weeks to come, with the initial loss of $17,000, the delay in supply flowing from missed orders and broken contractual obligations, John’s company estimated their loss to be over $30,000.