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The financial scams to watch out for in 2024

Written and accurate as at: Apr 12, 2024 Current Stats & Facts

Australians lost a total of $477 million to scams last year, according to the ACCC, with the majority of victims falling in the over-65 category. But there is some good news: year-on-year losses were down by $92 million, suggesting the government’s tougher approach to tackling scams is beginning to pay off. 

Stemming the tide completely will be a tall order, but there are things everyday Australians can do to protect their finances and their sensitive information. The first step, as is often the case, is to be aware. Below are a few common ploys used by scammers.

Bank impersonation scams

Ever received an urgent-sounding message from your bank, but couldn’t help but feel that something about it was off? Chances are your instinct was right.

These days, fraudsters can ‘spoof’ existing phone numbers, or make a text message appear in the same thread as actual conversations you’ve had in the past. This allows them to dress up attempts to extract money or information as legitimate communications from banks and other organisations.1

Scammers will typically start by claiming your account has been compromised, then give you a phone number to call to set things right. Those who call might be pressured to hand over their personal details and bank passwords, or even urged to transfer their funds into another account. 

Online marketplace scams

Spend enough time on online marketplaces and you’ll quickly learn they can be a haven for fraudsters. For newcomers who aren’t familiar with their tactics, a good rule of thumb is to be suspicious of buyers who offer convoluted instructions for receiving payment. 

Scammers might encourage you to sign up for certain payment platforms, then send emails or texts requesting payment to “activate” them. They might also claim they’ve accidentally overpaid you and ask for the excess amount to be transferred “back” to them. Do your best to filter these users out.

Scams that claim to assist with cost of living

Cost of living pressures have hit many Aussies hard, and cyber criminals often count on financial stress, if not outright desperation, to increase both the number and vulnerability of potential targets. 

Some fraudsters are now claiming they can help people access their super early by moving it to a self-managed fund. By pretending to be a financial adviser and initiating the rollover of funds, they might be able to dip their hands in and make off with some or all of your retirement savings.

Fake delivery alerts

The popularity of online shopping has opened up new avenues for cybercriminals, who have taken to impersonating Australia Post and other delivery services in elaborate bids to harvest personal data.2

A common scheme involves texting people out of the blue, claiming a parcel of theirs couldn’t be delivered, and directing them to an official looking website where they’ll be asked to provide their details.

In cases like these, the ACCC urges consumers to avoid clicking on any links, as they’ll most likely result in the theft of sensitive information. Instead, you should rely on the official app of the delivery service you used for information about your parcel.

Pig butchering scams

Pig butchering scams, as the name evocatively suggests, involve “fattening up” a victim by luring them into a digital relationship — often initiated via social media, a dating app, or a “wrong number” text message. Once enough rapport has been built up, the scammer will begin spruiking dodgy investment opportunities, often with the promise of massive returns. 

Scammers sometimes go to great lengths to make their operation look legitimate, including creating trading platforms, apps, and message groups with seemingly bustling communities. Vulnerable people can invest thousands of dollars before the scammer pulls the rug out and makes off with their money.

Remote access scams

This type of scam starts with a message from someone claiming to be from a bank, telco or other recognisable organisation. They will say they’ve identified an issue with your computer or device and ask you to download software that will grant them remote access, supposedly to get to the bottom of things.

If alarm bells weren’t already going off in your head, they should be now. Going through with this can allow the person on the other end of the line to commit identity theft, fraud, or potentially even access your bank account and drain your savings.

Ways to stay safe

Both the tactics used by scammers and the technology available to them are constantly evolving. But common sense and a healthy dose of scepticism are often a good defence. To help protect yourself against scams like the ones mentioned, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Understand that you’re more likely to fall victim to a social hack (the exploiting of human weaknesses and errors) than a digital hack
  • If you receive an urgent sounding message, don’t make any rash decisions. Scammers are hoping to prompt quick action by creating a sense of urgency
  • If you’re unsure if a message is genuine, contact the organisation via the number on their website, not the one provided in the text message
  • Avoid clicking on links in texts or emails
  • Service providers generally don’t ask for personal information or passwords in their communications, so take any requests of this kind with a grain of salt
  • If you’re selling an item online, check a buyer’s profile for signs they might not be who they say they are and be wary of buyers who ask you for a payment 
  • If you’re buying an item online, don’t send any money until you’ve inspected the item in person
  • If you’re worried you’ve lost money to a scam, contact your bank immediately so they can assist. 


1 ScamWatch

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