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Simple steps to avoid being scammed

Tips to avoid being scammed

If it seems too good to be true… it probably is.

As scammers become more and more sophisticated, unfortunately more hardworking Australians are falling victim to clever scams, with the ACCC reporting record losses to fraudsters this year of over $21 million.

People aged over 65, indigenous people and those with disabilities were among the most vulnerable.

While many people are on the lookout for scams through email and unsolicited phone calls, scammers have moved onto more unusual methods – and aren’t afraid to play the long game. For example, scams through social media, particularly free trials, or those promising high-reward investment opportunities or claiming to be endorsed by Shark Tank or other celebrities, are becoming more common, and more targeted to entice you to take the bait.

Investment schemes are among the most harmful, as scammers are willing to spend longer “grooming” the vulnerable person to contribute more money over time.

“In an environment of rising household costs, people may be looking for ways to make more money, particularly if large events are coming up – like their child’s wedding, a holiday, or retirement," Anna Pearce, General Manager Member Experience said.

“Scammers prey on this, and use high-pressure techniques to persuade you to invest. They can often trick you into believing you’ve made a return on your investment to encourage you to invest more… and that’s when they’ll disappear with your savings."

Banks such as P&N block outgoing payments to known scammers. However, requests for payment to participate in things such as “investment opportunities” often request payments to an intermediary company through channels such as BPAY or making the payment to a "trading company", which is how they bypass detection.

Dating sites and apps are also common grounds for scammers, posing as lonely hearts from overseas who need financial help.

“From time to time we get requests from members wanting to transfer large sums of money overseas to someone they’ve never met – usually someone they’ve met online, developed a relationship with and believe they can trust.”

Many of these relationships can go on for years before the deception is discovered.

“The reality is that we often can’t get the funds back for members who provide their consent to make these overseas funds transfers, or provide money to investment schemes,” Mrs Pearce said.

“A simple phone call to your bank before making any large payments can help save a lot of pain and heartache.”

It’s important to do your research, particularly before signing up to a new investment opportunity. Consult a financial advisor or call P&N and check Scamwatch to confirm it’s legitimate to make sure you don’t risk losing your hard earned cash.

Here are our top six tips for staying safe:

  1. Always know who you are dealing with. If you’re not sure, contact the business directly using the numbers on their website (not the one they give you), or do your own research to verify if they are legitimate, and in the case of investment/finance offers, check the company is regulated.

  2. Don’t provide your banking details to anyone. Your banking institution will never ask for your contact details over SMS or email.

  3. Never click on URLs or open attachments in suspicious emails. 

  4. Be wary of “free trials” or “high return investment opportunities”, particularly on social media. If your “investment opportunity” requests that you make payment through an intermediary service, consult your bank to try and verify the recipient. It will most likely be a scam that could mean big losses.

  5. Be wary of online dating sites where matches are generally overseas and you don’t have the opportunity to meet in person, especially if once you connect they ask for large or regular amounts of money.

  6. Always go to your online banking platform directly.

Additionally, members are encouraged to read Safe & Savvy: A guide to help older people avoid abuse, scams and fraud by the Australian Banking Association.

To check a scam, visit scamwatch.gov.au or contact P&N Bank.

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