A scam is any fraudulent, dishonest scheme designed to take your money or steal your identity.
It’s important to always remember, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Make sure you take the time to investigate any claim and never act impulsively. All scams rely on you acting quickly and not considering carefully.
In 2020, scams cost Australians more than 175 million dollars and Territorians almost a million dollars. These figures are only the costs reported to ScamWatch, and represents only a small percentage of the real costs. Many scams go unreported for a variety of reasons.
Scams cost everyone and anyone can be a target - you may already have been scammed. Always protect yourself and your family by using these simple rules:
Protect your money
- Never respond to an email asking you for your pin numbers, passwords or personal information.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know or trust or have never met.
- Only invest with licensed financial services providers.
Protect your phone
- Install security apps and keep them up to date.
- Be suspicious of unexpected calls and text messages and do not reply.
- Do not make your phone number publicly available.
- Protect your phone with a password and do not share with anyone.
Protect your computer
- Install security apps and keep them up to date.
- Do not respond to unsolicited emails.
- Be careful with online competitions asking for personal information.
- Restrict the amount of personal information you have publicly available on your social media accounts.
Protect your identity
- Never give out your personal information to someone you don’t know or trust completely.
- Don’t just throw out your bills, medical or personal records or expired credit or debit cards. Ensure they are shredded before binning.
- Regularly check your credit card and bank accounts and statements carefully.
Have you been scammed?
If you have already fallen victim to a scam please take the time to report it. Often it’s not possible to recover your money but you can fight back by alerting authorities of trending scams. This information helps us to target education and awareness campaigns to help reduce the effectiveness of new scams.
Where to report if you have been scammed
|Type of incident||Agency|
|Banking||Your bank or financial institution|
|Cybercrime||Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)|
|Financial and investment scams||Australian Securities and Investments Commission|
|Fraud and theft||
Your local police - call 131 444|
In the Northern Territory call your local police station
|Spam||Australian Communications and Media Authority|
|Tax related scams||Australian Taxation Office|
Scams are crafted schemes that encourage you to do something. The more aware you are of the different types of scams and how they operate, the more empowered you are to know when you are being scammed. There are also many other ways that you can protect yourself from scams and these are discussed below.
Types of scams
Scams come in many forms and scammers are always changing and adapting them to ensure that people are never familiar with every kind of scam. However, scams can be broken into different types as detailed below. The scams listed below are in priority order of how much they cost Australians each year.
Want to invest in a scheme that can make you money fast? You should beware because there are many fake investment opportunities out there that are ready to take your money and run.
One type of investment scam is based on betting and sports. These scams offer you access to ‘foolproof’ systems and software that will guarantee you a win. Often these systems use information already publically available from betting websites and newspapers for little cost. There is no magic formula for predicting winners.
Investment hot tips and investment and superannuation seminars can often be a method used to encourage you to invest impulsively. Take your time, research and get advice from an accredited, independent financial advisor with good reviews.
Learn more about investment scams.
These scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via social media apps or online dating sites. They pretend to be your dream partner for life but instead extort you for money and gifts and ultimately leave you broke and broken hearted.
These scams can be very convincing and much time and effort goes into convincing the target person that the scammer is a real person who loves them dearly. People build a strong connection with the fake person and resist identifying and acting on the warning signs. It is important that family and friends are there to question the relationship and help the victim. This scam specifically targets some of our most vulnerable, especially the elderly.
Learn more about romance scams.
Your business might be sent a fraudulent invoice with similar details to your regular supplier. If you don’t check all the details carefully you could be sending money to a scammer. Letters or invitations to be listed in a bogus trade directory or to renew your website domain name are other common false-billing scams. You may also receive a phone call from a supplier letting you know that they have changed their account details. Call them back using their online contact details and verify any change – this could be a scammer at work.
To protect yourself from this scam it is important that you are careful and vigilant when you’re paying your accounts. If you manage a business, ensure that your staff are aware of this scam and limit the number of staff who can pay invoices and sign agreements or contracts.
Learn more about false billing scams.
Attempts to gain your personal information
Scammers use all kinds of tricky techniques to get you to hand over your personal details. Once they have your details they could apply for a credit card or open a bank account. They can then use them for fraudulent activities, leaving you with the consequences.
Hacking, phishing and remote access scams are all techniques used to gain your personal information. Maintaining security apps on ALL your devices, including phones, will restrict many hackers. Be careful when reading your emails - do not instinctively click on links. Links can provide access into your computer and all your personal information.
Remote access scams are when someone calls unexpectedly and offers to help you with your computer. This is always a scam. The scammer is seeking illegal access into your valuable computer information, although the scammer might claim to be from your service provider.
Learn more about personal information scams.
Buying or selling
Scammers are active in both buying and selling products and services. Not every transaction is legitimate and you must be cautious, especially when you’re buying and selling online.
We have all been scammed to some degree while buying or selling. Take the time to check online reviews and research the business. Some scammers are now producing some professional looking websites that appear to be legitimate.
Another type of scam is one that includes psychics and clairvoyants, who approach you and claim they can help you with a curse or a jinx. They may even claim to be able to help you with winning lottery numbers, without explaining why they just don’t use them themselves.
Jobs and employment
Job and employment scams trick you into handing over your money by offering you a ‘guaranteed’ way to make fast money or find a high-paying job with little effort. Like most scams, the claims are too good to be true.
Sadly, these scams, like others, target vulnerable Australians who are desperate for work and a sense of achievement. Save your energy and money and keep working on looking for legitimate employment. These employment scams are usually about getting you to purchase cheap products at ridiculous prices to sell to friends and family. Alternatively, they may demand an upfront fee. There are endless variations of these scams.
Be particularly vigilant that you are not being recruited into a pyramid scheme. With these schemes, you pay to join and the scheme relies on you convincing other people to join up. In order for everyone in the scheme to make a profit there needs to be an endless supply of new members so, they collapse quickly, leaving only the promoter with a profit.
Warning: in Australia, it is against the law to promote or participate in a pyramid scheme.
Learn more about jobs and employment scams.
Threats and extortion
Scammers will use any means possible to steal your identity or your money. This sadly includes threatening your life or 'hijacking' your computer and demanding a ransom to unlock your own files.
Shockingly threats to life and threats of arrest by the Police are also used by scammers to get people to send money. These scams are designed to shock the target person and get them to comply quickly without having time to consult family, friends or the Police. They will often pretend to be from a government agency, especially the Australian Tax Office (ATO). The ATO does not demand immediate payment. Scammers will often demand payment in the form of gift cards or direct bank transfers and deposits. Yet again, this is not something government agencies do.
Learn more about threats and extortion scams.
Scammers construct convincing reasons to give you false hope about unexpected offers of money. Everyone has heard those stories of a rich, old relative passing away and leaving their riches to some unsuspecting relative. There are really no get-rich-quick schemes, so always think twice before handing over your details or dollars.
These scams are as variable as a scammers’ imagination. They may ask for your bank account details so that they can transfer large amounts of foreign money, with you receiving a percentage. This may be an attempt at money laundering (which is illegal) or just simply an attempt to get your banking details.
Other scams may try to convince you that you are entitled to a rebate or reimbursement from the government, a bank or trusted organisation. Give them no personal information and ask for information that you can verify independently.
Learn more about unexpected money scams.
Don't be fooled by news of a surprise win. These scams try to trick you into giving money upfront or your personal information in order to receive a prize from a lottery or competition that you never entered. The excitement of the win can sometimes stop you from thinking twice.
Tragically, scammers sometimes impersonate genuine charities, especially during highly publicised national tragedies. They will also hijack local tragedies and set up fraudulent donation websites or social media links. Check and verify before donating to any charity.
Learn more about fake charities scams.
The Little Black Book of Scams
The Little Black Book of Scams is published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and outlines a variety of common scams that regularly target Australian consumers and small businesses. It also offers consumers tips on how to protect themselves from scams, what they can do to minimise damage if they do get scammed and how they can report a scam.
There are two versions of the book:
If you would like a hardcopy version please call NT Consumer Affairs on 1800 019 319 and we will mail out a copy of the booklet to you for free.
Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is part of the Australian Government’s Australian Signals Directorate. It is a national online system that allows the public to securely report instances of cybercrime. Their website provides a raft of information on cybercrime and cyber security including what it is and what you can do to protect yourself and your business. Check out the ACSC website.
IDCARE, is a national identity and cyber support service that can provide counselling support from specialist counsellors and information on additional responses that may be unique to your own situation for those who might have had their personal information stolen.
If you would like to access these services please call 1800 595 160 or visit the IDCARE website.
- Protect YOURSELF
- Protect your MONEY
- Protect your PHONE
- Protect your COMPUTER
- Protect your IDENTITY
- SCAMS poster
- Factsheet - Public Wi-Fi
- Factsheet - Passwords and two-factor authentication
- Factsheet - Phishing
- Factsheet - Software Updates
Other useful websites on scams
- Stay Smart Online
- Protect Your Financial Identity
- Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC)
- ASIC MoneySmart
- Scamnet WA
- List of Scams NSW
- Australian Taxation Office
- Australian Cyber Security Centre
Report any scams to NT Consumer Affairs
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