Australians lose $45 million to scams in 2015

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is urging the community not to send money or personal details to strangers after $45 million was reported lost to scams already this year and 45,000 complaints made.
THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is urging the community not to send money or personal details to strangers after $45 million was reported lost to scams already this year and 45,000 complaints made. Jen Tybell

AUSTRALIANS have lost $45 million to scams in the past six months, prompting a warning to consumers not to send money or personal details to strangers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also reported it received 45,000 complaints about scams in the first six months of this year.

Those scams ranged from online communications to those completed over the phone and by post.

ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said scammers were becoming more sophisticated in their methods.

Often they succeeded because they "look like the real thing", she said.

Data from the commission showed dating and romance scams led to $10 million lost in the six months with "investment schemes" a close second on about $9.1 million.

Other common scams executed on Australians included inheritance scams, fleecing $3.5 million from victims, "Nigerian scams" at $2.3 million and betting schemes at $1.3 million.

Ms Rickard warned people to be vigilant in securing their information and in not giving it out.

Be alert to the fact that scams exist:

When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. 

Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Know who you're dealing with:

If you've only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. 

Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them.

Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails - delete them: 

If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. 

Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

Keep your personal details secure: 

Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. 

Keep your passwords and PIN numbers in a safe place:

Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. 

Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. 

Always use password protection, don't share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. 

Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.

Choose your passwords carefully:

Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. 

A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. 

Don't use the same password for every account/profile, and don't share your passwords with anyone:

Beware of any requests for your details or money. 

Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don't know or trust. 

Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

Be careful when shopping online:

Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust.

Types of scams: 

The ACCC provides information on the, and collects and publishes data on these scam types.

Report a scam: 

If you think you've been scammed or know someone who has, report it to the ACCC using our report a scam page.

Get help: If you've been scammed, there are steps you can take straight away to reduce the damage and prevent further loss. 

Find out what you can do to protect yourself, your business or your loved ones from scams.

We also encourage you to sign up for our Scamwatch radar alerts to stay informed about the latest scams. You can also follow us on Scamwatch Twitter.

Topics:  accc scams scamwatch

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