Scams and how to deal with them!

Welcome to this first article on the world of IT (Information Technology).

In this article I will discuss the topic that unfortunately has become an issue that we all need to be aware of, that of scams; what to do, how to identify them and what steps to take when we suspect we may be exposed to one, and how to lessen your exposure.

A Scam is a illegal method to extort money, goods or identity from you.

Update (7th August 2019): A scam was just mentioned on the Stay-Smart-Online government website mentioning a Tax Office scam – I’ve included the intro and a link to the full article:

ALERT: Watch out for scam messages promising a ‘tax refund’ or threatening you with a ‘tax debt.’ These are NOT from the Australian Taxation Office or myGov!   Always check your tax messages through the official myGov account by typing in the web address.
LINK

Update (6th August 2019): One thing I omitted to mention and it was raised on the ABC Radio breakfast show this morning is ensuring your letterbox is secure – if someone steals a bill (Electricity, Gas, Phone etc…), they have one more piece of information to potentially prove they are you in an identity fraud.  For those who are comfortable switch your bills to being sent via email – also approach your bank and if convenient collect new credit cards from your branch rather than having it posted to you.

Scam’s come in a number of forms. A knock at the door, a letter in the mail or a surprise email from a well-known organisation to name a few. Also purchasing items online can be an issue, some websites look very professional and can trick you into thinking you are purchasing from a real seller website. Also, it is not uncommon to get a text message on your phone alerting you to a big lottery win!

The most important thing to do when you experience one of these potential scams is to stop and do nothing until you have sought advice.
It is quite common for someone to receive an email or a letter for the first time and having had no experience of the situation they react immediately and get themselves into trouble. This may involve replying to an email or a text, or assuming a phone conversation or someone at your door is legitimate.

Remember it is important that there is no rush and you are under no obligation to act immediately. Never reply to an email or a text as if it is a scam you have given away the fact that you are real and have started a conversation.

Some of the tricks that are used include:

  • Saying they are from a well-known company such as Telstra, Microsoft, the Tax Office or one of our main banks – these organisations rarely contact customers direct, so it best to be courteous, and say you are not interested.
  • Spam (junk) emails that look like the real deal, but links may take you to a fake website or worse a website that contains malware (e.g a virus), or they may contain an attachment that is malware and infects your computer.
  • Investment opportunities that sound too good to be true – they always are!
  • Intimidation is very common – suggesting you own the ATO (tax department) money and you should rush down to the supermarket to purchase some sort of voucher to pay off the debt (Note: Organisations simply do not do this!).

How to identify a scam:

Email:

If you receive an email from someone you don’t know or an organisation for the first time, be very cautious. Does it look legitimate? Is the wording poor – is there an attachment? One thing you can do is hover the mouse over a link and look at where the link is going – if it is some obscure website, delete it straight away.

A Phone Call:

As mentioned previously major organisations rarely ring you out of the blue. If there is a 5-6 second pause before someone talks it is an overseas phone call – and quite likely a scam. Simply say you are not interested and hang up.
One very important thing never to do is give personal information over the phone to an unknown caller. They may ask for a password to confirm you are you (Note: They should be proving to you that they are who they say they are!)

Someone at your door selling a product or a service:

Even if you may be interested or have a need for the product or service, it is not worth the risk, simply say you are not interested.

If you are dealing with a real person on the phone or at your door, here are a few strategies to use:

      • Play dumb, say you don’t understand and leave it at that!
      • Simply say you are not interested, don’t hesitate to say so!
      • Say you need to talk to a relative (daughter, son, husband etc…) as they handle all your affairs.

Computer issues:

One common scam that catches people out is a phone call from Telstra or Microsoft advising they have been monitoring your computer and they have identified issues and they need you to give them remote access to your computer to investigate the issue.  This is a nonsense and is not real, no organisation does this – so never give some one access (they will instruct you to run software or change a setting to give them access – invariably they say they have found an issue but need your credit card number to charge you to fix the issue.


One final aspect of this is identify fraud – if someone gains enough information about you (For example enough information to pass a 100 point identification form) they can use that information to gain access to one of your accounts, such as a bank account.
So never give any information away if requested.

I hope this has provided a good overview of this serious topic and you are better prepared to know when to do when faced with a potential scam. But I will re-iterate again, do nothing until you get advice.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest information below are a few suggestions:

  • The ABC often has articles on their website, the news or radio talk back discussing scams
  • WA Consumer Protection website: LINK
  • Scamwatch (Govt site from Aust Competition and consumer commission) LINK
  • ASIC Money Smart: LINK

Dave Porter – 1st August 2019

Last updated – 6th August 2019

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