Consumers urged to test their scam knowledge

Monday, 12 August, 2019

Consumers urged to test their scam knowledge

Consumers are being urged to test their scam knowledge and refresh their scam protection and detection skills this National Scams Awareness Week (12–16 August).

Scams are set to cost Australians more than half a billion dollars by the end of 2019, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

To help consumers improve their understanding and awareness around scams, the ACCC has released a set of resources, including information on different types of scams, stories from scam victims and details on where to get help if they’ve lost money or given personal information to a scammer.

Consumers can also access a quiz to check whether they really are ‘too smart to be scammed’ — in line with this year’s awareness theme.

“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“People need to update their idea of what a scam is so that [they] are less vulnerable. Scammers are professional businesses dedicated to ripping [consumers] off. They have call centres with convincing scripts, staff training programs and corporate performance indicators their ‘employees’ need to meet.”

Investment scams are one of the most sophisticated and convincing scams and continue to have the highest losses. In fact, nearly half of all investment scams reported this year resulted in financial loss, according to the ACCC.

These scams are prominent on social media, with ‘Facebook lottery’ scams, the ‘Loom’ pyramid scheme and cryptocurrency scams particularly common.

Between January and July this year, the ACCC alone received reports of $14.76 million in losses from cryptocurrency investment scams — many of which use social media platforms, fake celebrity endorsements or fake online trading platforms that are made to look legitimate.

As a result, Rickard warned consumers to be wary of internet ads, celebrity endorsements and ‘not to be missed’ opportunities and to contact friends via means other than social media before acting on any advice that might cause them to give away personal details or money.

Consumers should also confirm businesses are not on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) list of unlicensed companies before dealing with them and continue researching and speak to a financial advisor before investing in any company not on that list.

Finally, the ACCC is encouraging consumers to be vigilant on social media, when online shopping or answering the phone, and to never give personal details, banking details or remote computer access to anyone that has made contact out of the blue.

“Remember, anyone could fall victim and no-one is too smart to be scammed. Always ask yourself, ‘Could this be a scam?’ and if you’re ever in doubt, decline the contact or hang up the phone — it’s often the safest option,” Rickard concluded.

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