Messages of Hope

SCAMS AWARENESS WEEK

Published / by Sandy

Who knew there was such a thing as SCAMS AWARENESS WEEK, Nov 8th-12th. The theme for the week is Let’s talk scams.

Some of us have caught our breath when we’ve received a very official sounding voice message from the Australian Taxation Office, Australian Federal Police, or Border Force, reporting illegal activity and that an arrest warrant had been issued. Con-artists are phoning people to claim their tax file number (TFN) has been suspended or compromised due to money laundering or other illegal activity or that they owe a debt.

Scamwatch is urging people to be extra vigilant about scams after Australians reported a record $211 million in losses to scams so far this year, an 89% increase compared to the same period last year.

ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh: “We recently saw one scammer lure a young woman out of lockdown to drop off $30,000 in cash to a person at a local hardware store carpark. The scammer, claiming to be from the Federal Police, threatened arrest and told the victim that her TFN was compromised. The victim also sent photocopies of her driver’s licence and Medicare card to the scammer before reporting to the ATO and the police. Another shocking account came from a Victorian man who paid $50,000 to a representative who collected the cash from their front door. The scammer demanded personal details such as their TFN, address and name over the phone before the home visit. The scammer also ‘guaranteed’ the victim would get their money back if they paid upfront.”

Scammers also pretend to be from companies such as Amazon or eBay, claiming large purchases have been made on the victim’s credit card. When they pretend to help you process a refund, they actually gain remote access to your computer and steal your personal and banking details.

Scammers are always on the hunt for new ways to con Australians out of their hard-earned cash. Many intelligent people have fallen victim to these online scams – not because they had a lapse in judgement but because the scammers are so clever and take advantage of people. And then it feels shameful to admit or report being victim of a scam, but it’s so important to do so.

Why would this topic be a ‘Message of Hope’? Simply because by naming the outrageous activity of the scammers, you know you’re not alone if you fall victim to a scam, and can be forewarned about the way scammers operate.According to the ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, it is important to talk about scams because staying silent just benefits the scammers. Talking about scams spreads awareness, and that awareness is what empowers us to trust our judgement and avoid scams. Encouraging open, judgement-free conversations about scams is a powerful tool to help people get out of scams sooner, before they lose any more money, or prevent scams altogether.
If you see a scam, report it to Scamwatch – these reports are extremely important as they provide key information about any emerging scams or trends.

It’s been a bumper year for scammers so far. Aussies have lost over $70 million to investment scams in just the first six months of this year alone. Disturbingly, this is more than the total losses reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch division for all of 2020, and projected losses are set to double to $140 million by the end of the year.

Some scams are obvious – like the text message from someone you know saying they’re stuck overseas and need money to return home. COVID seems to have dealt with that one, anyway, since no-one is travelling.

Recently, there has been a spate of annoying text messages about parcel deliveries. Scams again. Quite clever to target online buyers about deliveries. Australia’s scam watchdog has warned that the malicious “Flubot” scam is now presenting as fake text messages warning victims that a parcel is about to be delivered. The text messages pretend to be from a reputable shipping company, and contain a php link for the recipient to “track their parcel”. If a victim were to click the link, they are directed to a second page that asks them download a specific app to track their parcel. The app is part of a malicious form of scam known as the “Flubot”. Flubot is a form of software known as malware that has the potential to immediately access a user’s passwords and financial information. Delete these messages and don’t click on links! If you want to check a delivery, use the confirmation email from the business.

Scamwatch recently warned Australians to be on the lookout for ‘Flubot’ text messages where phone users are often enticed to click on the link by promises of hearing a missed voicemail.

Thousands of Australians have fallen victim to a convincing new phone scam with a recorded message from someone claiming to be an Australian Border Force Officer. The message suggests a parcel addressed to the individual has been intercepted and seized after it was found to have been containing illegal components. As a result, an arrest warrant had been issued. It then asks recipients to dial ‘one’ to speak with an officer. But the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says individuals should “hang up immediately”. (The scammers) would ask the victim to google their local Australian Federal Police phone number and the scammer had called the reporter from that number through spoofing. Scammers would then get the victim to share bank account details, driving licence, passport, and a photo of reporter holding the licence. With these details, scammers can compromise the victim’s identity, with the photo being useful to pass a variety of institutions’ Know Your Customer checks.” The regulator warned that scammers will also often tell the victim they need to withdraw money from their bank account and deposit it into a ‘government bank account’ so they can check or safeguard the money.

The scam is believed to be a new variation of two others that impersonate officers from the Australian Taxation Office and Australian Federal Police, threatening people with arrest if they do not make payment immediately.

The spokesperson was clear – “law enforcement agencies and government departments will never ask you to pay a fine with cash, cryptocurrencies, or gift cards. They will not call and demand you transfer funds to a bank account. The Australian Border Force will not call, email or contact you via social media and threaten to arrest you. (And) no Australian government agency (law enforcement included) will demand payment for a fine over the phone. When in doubt, residents should verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly. Never provide bank details, passport or copies of photo identification to someone who had called you out of the blue. It is OK to hang up and check the person’s story by contacting the police or government organisation yourself.”

Or those gift cards. If someone calls you and demands that you pay them with gift cards, you can bet that a scammer is behind that call. Once they have the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money. Scammers may tell you many stories to get you to pay them with gift cards, but this is what usually happens:
* The caller says it’s urgent. The scammer says you have to pay right away or something terrible will happen. But you don’t, and it won’t.
* The caller usually tells you which gift card to buy. They might say to put money on an eBay, Google Play, Target, or iTunes gift card. They might send you to a specific store. Sometimes they say to buy cards at several stores, so cashiers won’t get suspicious. And, the caller might stay on the phone with you while you go to the store and load money onto the card. These are all signs of a scam.
The caller asks you for the gift card number and PIN. The card number and PIN on the back of the card let the scammer get the money you loaded onto the card. And the scammer gets it right away.

Scammers pretend to be someone they’re not. They want to scare or pressure you into acting quickly, so you don’t have time to think or talk to someone you trust. Here’s a list of common scams:

The caller says they’re from the government. They say you have to pay taxes or a fine, but it’s a scam.
Someone calls from tech support, maybe saying they’re from Apple or Microsoft, saying there’s something wrong with your computer. But it’s a lie. (Easy to pick up if you have a different ‘brand’ computer!!).
The scammer pretends to be a friend or family member in an emergency and asks you to send money right away – but not tell anyone. This is a scam. If you’re worried, hang up and call your friend or relative to check that everything is all right.
Someone says you’ve won a prize but first, you have to pay fees or other charges with a gift card. Remember: no honest business or agency will ever make you pay with a gift card. But also – did you even enter that raffle?
The caller says she’s from your power company, or another utility company. She threatens to cut off your service if you don’t pay immediately. But utility companies don’t work that way. It’s a scam.
You get a check from someone for way more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the check, then give them the difference on a gift card. But that check will be fake and you’ll be out all that money.

Payment is demanded through ‘cardless cash’ ATM withdrawals and retail gift cards from the likes of JB Hi-Fi, Myer and Woolworths, as well as from courier services who collect the cash payments and cash delivery made in person at a predetermined public location.

Between 1 January and 19 September 2021, people aged 65+ have lost the most money – $49.1 million, or 23% of total losses for the year. Indigenous Australians have reported $4.3 million in losses to scams, an increase of 172% on the losses reported in the same period in 2020. People who speak English as a second language made over 10,500 reports with losses of $29.9 million, representing almost 14.4% of total losses for the period.

All very disturbing. But it can be as simple as hanging up on a call. Deleting text messages. And report to the police, and Scamwatch.  People who suspect they may be a victim of identity theft should contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or via www.idcare.org – a free government-funded service that works with individuals to develop a specific response plan to their situation and support them throughout the process.

No shame if you’re a victim. Speak up. Take action. Report what has happened. And get support from friends and family.

(Take care everyone!!)