Common questions about scams and rip-offs
If your question is not in our list, then contact WA ScamNet.
If your question is not in our list, then contact WA ScamNet.
Websites such as yours help provide information on how to beware using the internet and money. How do you raise awareness to people who have not heard of you?
The WA ScamNet website is our primary means of increasing community awareness about scams targeting Western Australians. However the Department works cooperatively with other government, law enforcement and community organisations to gather intelligence and spread our message. The Department engages with the community through a comprehensive media strategy that includes weekly talk back radio and print media partnerships across the state.
Are there any patterns regarding the victims? Elderly people who are not that experienced with the use of Internet for instance? Or rich business people?
While it is common for scammers to target the the less fortunate and vulnerable members of our community, no one is immune to their reach. The Australian Institute of Criminology has recently released a study into scam victimisation.
How many scams do you prevent on average over a month, week or a year?
It is difficult to ascertain the number of scams that are prevented each month as a result of WA ScamNet service. However, the number of reports received from consumers about suspicious solicitations are approximately 825 telephone calls, 2300 emails and 220 letter per month. As new scams are formed the WA ScamNet service seeks to alert and educate the community to the latest scams and therefore prevent people from falling prey to the schemes.
Has the increasing use of the internet over the nine years ScamNet has existed led to more scams?
Over the past decade, community access to the internet has grown by more than 400%. In the late 1990's approximately 16% of households had access to the internet, that number is closer to 90% of homes today. Improvements in communications (broadband, mobile internet and social networking etc) technology over the past decade has increased the ease and speed at which scammers can target potential victims. Scammers now possess the means to contact thousands of potential targets at the touch of a button. Continued convergence of technology (eg smart phones) will only increase the amount of time consumers are connected to the online market place, which again increases the opportunities available to scammers.
Are most scams done over Internet?
Approximately 65% of scams reported to WA ScamNet are internet based, however over the past twelve months the Department has seen a sharp increase in the number of scams attempted via telephone. Reports of telephone scams such as the Microsoft Scam and theBank Fees rebate scam have more than doubled in the past year.
How do I spot a scam?
They appear legitimate – but ask yourself “why me?”
They ask for your money. Often they ask for an administration fee or a processing fee, to buy a product, call a premium rate telephone number, go to a website address or respond to an email.
The request usually requires you to respond immediately
They are your best friend, very excited about your ‘good luck’, or in some cases can use threats of dire consequences if you don’t continue.
The contact, by various means, usually comes from overseas.
They may ask you to send money overseas to a post office box or by wire transfer.
They ask you to keep the ‘win’, or the ‘deal’, secret.
They present a believable argument to your questions. You need to be critical of the answer provided to you by the person or in the letter.
They pretend to be officials or from a government department.
Scams are unsolicited and they come out of the blue.
I have received a letter that looks like a scam. What do I do with it?
Send any letter scams you receive direct to WA ScamNet (no stamp required):
WA ScamNet - Consumer Protection
Reply Paid 64772
Locked Bag 14
Western Australia 6850
If it is a suspicious email, forward it to our email.
Is it really worth sending information into WA ScamNet?
Your information will be used to help alert others to the scam and as intelligence to assist in shutting down operators.
Your information has already helped us take action against a number of WA scam operators and participants. These include those involved in the Abundance and Amazing Grace pyramid selling schemes, and the David Rhodes chain letter
The NSW Office of Fair Trading has also shut down a number of overseas and locally-based scams in recent years, including fake clairvoyants Maria Duval, Anthony Carr and Valerie Taylor.
Scams sent in by WA consumers in 2001 were crucial in exposing an international multi-million dollar scam operated out of New York.
Consumer Protection began investigating one letter scam asking for a release fee for a parcel of goods. We discovered the scam was linked to dozens of other scams targeting consumers around the world. This year, the US Postal Investigation Service took court action against the operators behind this organised crime racket.
The scam information you send in is also now being shared with other state and national consumer protection authorities through a national computer database. This system makes it easier to share intelligence, track down scam operators and to alert other States of scams heading their way.
And we are working with these bodies on other strategies to deter other overseas scam operators from targeting Australians and New Zealanders.
If we can’t shut down the operators then, at the very least, we can warn others about it. But we need your help to do it.
I keep receiving mail from companies advertising goods for sale or competitions to enter. I don’t want to receive this mail. How did they get my details and how do I stop them from sending it to me?
Somewhere along the way you have got on someone’s mailing list. You may have entered a free competition for a product or service or subscribed to a publication. Alternatively, companies or individuals can get your name and address from a variety of sources including the electoral roll, council records or the telephone directory. Mailing lists are worth big money and companies sell, exchange or rent their lists to other companies.
If you are on a scammer’s mailing list, it is very difficult to get off. But you can fight back by sending the scam to WA ScamNet. There are things you can do if you are receiving the mail electronically. Check out our Fight Back section on emails and mouse power.
If you are receiving mail from a legitimate and reputable company, they should honour your request to take your name off their mailing list.
A number of Australian companies or charities belong to the Australian Direct Marketing Association which has a “Do Not Contact” register. You can register on line at www.adma.com.au or by post at ADMA -Do Not Contact Service, Reply Paid 464, KINGS CROSS NSW 1340
If you do receive unaddressed mail, the Distribution Standards Board provides a free reflective no junk mail sticker to any consumers who ask. It also maintains a database of all known addresses that carry this sign and provides a Hot Line for consumers to report illegal or irresponsible distribution practices. The DSB Hot Line number is 1800 676 136 and their web address is www.catalogue.asn.au/distribution/ .
I get a lot of scams sent via email? What can I do?
SPAM is the common term for electronic “junk mail” and is often used to spread scams. Check out our section on stopping email scams.
Australia has anti-spam laws which are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Check out their website for more tips on stopping SPAM on www.spam.acma.gov.au.
Why does my bank want my account details and password? Shouldn’t they already have it?
Yes, they do. Banks do not send emails requesting that their account holders verify their private information. Avoid responding to any emails of this nature as they are probably seeking to use the information for identity theft.
These emails often come with an embedded link which will take you off to a phoney website where they will be accessing your details. Do not click on the link, only use the email address supplied by your bank and type it into your computer. Never use emailed links.
The letter says it is legal and approved by a government department? Does this mean it is okay?
Not necessarily, check with the department in question, WA ScamNet or call Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54. Check with your neighbours or someone you can trust before responding in any way.
If I don’t send the money straight away, I will miss out on the offer. Should I send it?
If the offer is genuine, it will be there tomorrow. Do your checks and ask around first. Contact Consumer Protection for advice on 1300 30 40 54 and describe the offer to us.
The author says he wants to share his secrets to make money with me. Is this all right?
Ask yourself – why would a person want to share the information with someone they do not know, probably from another country? Avoid responding to the offer.
I have heard a lot about identity fraud, what is it? How do I protect my credit card and bank accounts from fraudulent activity?
Identity theft, also known as ID Theft, ID Fraud, or Identity Fraud, happens when someone steals or assumes a the identity of someone else (living or deceased ). Pretending to be another person, or acting in that other person’s capacity with the intent to deceive is against the law. Compared with other personal and theft-related crimes (i.e. assault, robbery, break-ins and motor vehicle theft), identity crime is one of the most common crime affecting Australians each year.
On average state and territory police charge over 550 people a week with identity crimes and each year around 24,000 offenders are proven guilty in a court of law.
Each year around 4 to 5% of Australians (around 750,000 to 937,000 people) lose money through an identity crime resulting in a financial loss. However, a considerable proportion of incidents go unreported.
While the majority of identity victims lose relatively small amounts of money (up to $1,000), in some cases losses can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars. A significant proportion of victims also experience demands on their time or other adverse impacts to their mental or physical health, reputations or general wellbeing.
Protecting your identity can be as simple as these 10 identity security tips:
Don’t provide your PIN or Internet banking login or password to anyone
Lock up your personal documents at home and when you are travelling, if you need to dispose of old documents or copies, destroy them
Put a lock on your mailbox and when you move, redirect your mail.
Be aware when use social media and limit the amount of personal information (your date of birth, current address, driver’s licence number and passport details)
Keep your anti-virus and firewall software up-to-date and secure your home computer, network and mobile phone with security software and strong passwords and avoid using public computers for sensitive activities.
Be very careful about clicking on links in e-mails or text messages. Do not use links to access trusted numbers of websites. Always enter the correct address for websites into the address bar of your browser and look up numbers from a legitimate directory
Learn how to avoid common scams at wascamnet
Be cautious about requests for your personal information over the internet, phone and in person in case it is a scam.
If you get a bill for goods and services that you haven’t ordered - investigate it promptly.
Be alert for any unusual bank statements, transactions or missing mail.
Identity theft can be very serious, both financially and emotionally. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself and always alert the authorities if you suspect your details have been stolen or are being misused.
Report any suspected crime. - For physical loss of property, contact your local police. For a digital loss of information in Australia, report a cybercrime to ACORN. Ask for a copy of the police report as banks and financial institutions will want to see it.
Apply for a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate - This Certificate is a further piece of information that you can use to help support your claim that you have been the victim of Commonwealth identity crime. This may help you to rectify your business or personal affairs.
Contact your bank or financial institution - Tell your bank, credit provider or the relevant company what has happened. If any accounts have been opened with your stolen details, ask for them to be closed or cancelled. You may need to ask them to set you up new accounts and PINs.
Inform the relevant government agency or business - If your driver's licence, passport, citizenship papers, Medicare card, birth, marriage and change of name certificates, tax file number, superannuation or pension details have been stolen, let the relevant agency know. Similarly, if your financial documents or investment reports were taken, alert your stock broker, financial planner or fund manager.
Get a copy of your credit report - You should tell the credit reporting agency that you have been a victim of identity theft so they can note it in your file. Check your credit report to see what companies have checked your credit history recently, and let them know not to authorise any new accounts in your name. Get a copy of your credit report from one of these reporting agencies
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a technique used to gain personal information for purposes of identity fraud, using fraudulent email messages that appear to come from legitimate business, most commonly from banks. These authentic-looking messages are designed to lure you into divulging personal data such as account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.
Phishing emails often copy the institution’s logo and message format. It is common for phishing emails to contain links to a website that is a convincing replica of the company’s home page.
They often try to instil a feeling of urgency by claiming:
To protect against phishing:
For more information, check out the Australian High Tech Crime Centre's website at www.ahtcc.gov.au.
What is a pyramid scheme? Why doesn’t it work?
Pyramid schemes rely on the recruitment of large numbers of people into the scheme and it eventually collapses. In return for money, they have to recruit other people into the scheme. It does not matter if the payment is dressed up as a ‘loan’, or as a payment for a training kit, or a compulsory first issue of stock, or the purchase of sham reports. The product usually becomes insignificant in relation to the money people are promised they can earn by recruiting others.
What is the difference between a pyramid scheme and a multi level marketing scheme?
A legitimate multi-level marketing program will have distributors sharing sales commissions with those who sponsored them into the business. In a true multi level marketing scheme, participants sell genuine products to the market place through a genuine sales network. In a pyramid selling scheme, selling products is secondary to recruiting others into the scheme.