Stop and Check: is this for real?

This Scams Awareness Week, which runs from 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 might call or email you and pretend to be from a government agency or well-known, trusted business. They then use threats to pressure or scare you into giving them your money or personal information.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of these scams in 2017. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.

When scammers impersonate government officials, they may say that you owe a tax debt or there are problems with your government benefits, immigration forms or visa status and that you must pay the debt or other fees to fix the issues or you’ll be arrested or deported.

Scammers also pretend to be from trusted organisations like Telstra, Australia Post or the police. They may ask for remote access to your computer to fix a problem or track down hackers or they may email you fake bills or fines, then threaten to cancel your service or charge you fees if you don’t do what they ask.

Scams Awareness Week is an initiative of the Scams Awareness Network, a group of Australian and New Zealand government agencies with responsibility for consumer protection and policing in scams, cyber safety and fraud. Northern Territory Consumer Affairs  is a proud member of this network.

Network members want to raise awareness about these scams as the scammers and their threats can seem genuine and frightening. They make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong or that there’s some urgency and you must act immediately or suffer the consequences.

If anyone receives an unexpected and threatening call or email that seems to be from a government agency or trusted business, they are urged to follow these tips to ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’

Always ask yourself whether the person or business that’s contacted you out of the blue is who they say they are.

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 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.

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.

For more information about these scams, where to get help or to report a scam, visit the Scamwatch website here.