Scammers attack everyone. The retired, business owners, the naive and yes, even smart people. Some scams are pretty convincing and others just rely on you being busy and not taking the time to check, think or question. *Here are some scams I’ve seen (or heard about) that seem to be floating around out there at regular times.
Different Ways to Scam
Pay your bill
There are a few of these, but one common which comes to mind is the larger electricity companies like Origin or Energex. Many people use these companies and they seem to select a bill size which is somewhat the norm. You get a very authentic-looking email, except your money won’t be going where you think.
Who doesn’t like to win a prize or get something for free? Well, the scammers sure like a prize – your money. It might be a $50 voucher from Bunnings, Woolies or Coles. They started off with $1,000 prizes, but I guess enough people realised “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t” so they made the amount more realistic.
There is a range here – from ASIC to the ATO. It will be anything from a fine, to pay your registration. One particular I got was from ASIC and what got me thinking was that (a) it was coming direct rather than through my accountant AND that I have nothing due at this time. I didn’t click through to the link, just asked my accountant and yep, a scam.
Another one (not email or internet-based) is when people come to your door. One person distracts you at the front door – perhaps a survey, utility company offer or similar. Meanwhile, their accomplice is at the back breaking in and helping themselves to your valuables. Mind you, he didn’t expect my German Shepherd / Rottweiler cross-dog to be able to multi-task. 🙂
Your bank account details need verification
Yep, yet another scam. Variations of this are computer companies saying your computer is in the process of being hacked (a phone call sometimes) or some other smart way of getting access to your bank, computer or assets.
You’re buying something which doesn’t exist
There are scams selling products, services (including marketing) where that item does not exist. With purchasing from any new supplier, do your due diligence and check them out. Having a website is not enough these days … look at all their online presence and especially reviews and I find it quite good to type in their name with the word ‘scam’ attached and see what comes up.
I’m calling from your bank and need to identify you
Ok, this one, a few times it has been my bank, but if they can’t provide me with something specific that I know it’s my bank, then I won’t be giving them any bank info. This is why I like to have a contact person I deal with always (not all banks offer this, unfortunately) so I recognise the person. Simply provide no info, get the name of the person you’re dealing with and ring them back via the published general number. If you’re in a hurry, ask them to write to you to your usual mailing address. Realistically, they should know better.
The list of scams go on and on. Some I’ve even looked at and thought, wow, that looks real. I know some very switched-on business owners who have been caught out. I’ve even heard of some cryptocurrency scams coming out.
So what can you do to avoid getting scammed?
- Never, NEVER give your personal details to anyone over the phone, email, in person or online unless you absolutely KNOW who they are. Taking the time to bring a listed phone number and verify will be worth your time. I was recently contacted by a charity offering me additional tickets. I already bought from them, but they said they needed my credit card details again. Whilst it looked legit, I took the time to ring the number on my current ticket and verify.
- Consider having a credit card (or better Visa debit card) with very small credit access. I do this and when I’m buying from anywhere overseas, or where I might wonder about the security of my card, I use that one. I keep little on the card and that way, little can be taken.
- Don’t give out your personal details willy nilly. How often do you get asked for your full date of birth for a loyalty card? I know they want to know your demographic and ideally birthday to send you an offer, but does it matter if you put in 1975 or 1970 as the year? Sure, the ATO, Queensland Transport and other official bodies need to know, but does Facebook or other online sites need the full specifics? Just if you are opening an account and quote a less than truthful date, make a note of what you provided. I know as good people we are encouraged to not lie but there comes a time where you need to maintain a degree of confidentiality.
- Bar very few places, you do not need to quote a tax file number. Things like addresses, TFNs and DOB are all ways to identify you. The more information you give out or have online, the more exposed you are.
- Train your staff. For those of you in business, make sure all your staff are very aware of what’s going on. If they are unsure, encourage them to check first (even with you). I know I’d prefer an interruption (again a few minutes) than one of my staff to pay a phony bill for several hundred dollars. Remember if they do interrupt you, thank them for being vigilant and not come across as annoyed at the interruption. Share with them why you believed it was a hoax so they learn from your experience.
- Train your family. This includes children, young adults and your parents. Don’t assume they will know (especially young adults because they have grown up online) – make sure they know the cautions. Decades ago (and I hope even still) we taught our kids stranger danger … well, then now goes to online concerns and risks. We cannot always be there to protect our children at every junction, but we can guide and educate them in every aspect of life. Cyberstalking and even bullying can be minimised with support and education and giving youngsters the confidence to say ‘no’.
- Be very vigilant. Taking an extra moment to check something or verify could be the difference between losing a huge chunk of money or losing a few minutes. I know which one I’m ok giving away. In a busy world, we often don’t take that moment to check specifics. For example, I might use Energex for my electricity, but did the email come in at the wrong time? Did I just pay my bill a week ago? When you click on “reply” what email address shows up? Is that the usual email address you normally get your electricity account from? If you don’t have an Energex account, then it’s pretty much a sure thing that it’s a fraud.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many different scams always emerging. There is a great little booklet online called The Little Black Book of Scams plus the Government website www.scamwatch.gov.au. If you see something, share it on social media – your friends, family and associates will appreciate the warning. If you see a local business being the base of a scam, ring them and let them know what is happening. You can report items to the Cyber Division of Queensland Police and don’t forget Crime Stoppers Queensland (alive and well) if you want to be anonymous and the scam or crime is local or Queensland relevant.
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* These are my views and may not be the views of official bodies such as Queensland Government, Queensland Police or Crime Stoppers Queensland.