While most of us think of Christmas as the season of goodwill
and happy holidays, some detestable crooks see it as a prime time
to lure people into scams and fraudulent rip offs.
Scammers like Christmas because many people are at home and
relaxed. Our guard is down at a time when we just want to have fun
and drop all thoughts of the ugly side of this world.
Unfortunately, Christmas is also a time when many lonely people
are vulnerable to cunning scammers who are skilled at preying on
them. The scammers pretend to be their friends or appeal to their
generosity by asking for money for fake charities.
ACCC's report on scam activity in Australia in 2015
This includes only those scams which were reported. Many people
are too embarrassed to report that they were taken in by a crook
masquerading as someone offering friendship or love online.
The top ten scams for 2015 identified by the report were:
Dating and romance scams
Computer prediction software and sports investment schemes
ID theft involving spam or phishing
Fake trader websites
Unexpected prize and lottery scams
Job and employment scams
The ACCC estimates that the total sum extracted by scammers from
the Australian public last year was a staggering $229 million.
Contact from scammers mostly comes via phone, email and the
internet. A growing trend is contact via social media.
Government's efforts to make consumers less vulnerable to
As people become more aware of particular types of scam
activity, scammers continue to invent new and ingenious ways to try
to swindle us.
Some of the statistics in the ACCC's report are encouraging
and demonstrate the progress made by the government in its attempts
to educate the public. For example, Australians are learning not to
send money to strangers promising romance. Money lost from dating
and romance scams decreased 18.5 per cent in 2015.
Both individuals and businesses targeted by scammers
One of the most dangerous scams targeting individuals is
identity theft. Those who have their identity stolen might not even
be aware that this has happened until they receive their credit
card bill. One person in Canberra even found that her residential
property had been sold without her knowledge by someone who had
stolen her identity.
Businesses are increasingly being targeted with fake invoices,
so it is important to have a checking process for all payments. The
ACCC website has a Small business scams fact sheet which describes common
types of scams designed to defraud businesses and gives advice to
business owners who suspect that they have been targeted.
Activities of scammers display some seasonal variations
As Christmas approaches and people are planning to go on
holiday, scammers are targeting sharing economy websites like
Airbnb, typically creating convincing-looking fake versions of
websites and attempting to get unsuspecting consumers to send them
money outside the legitimate platform's secure payment system.
According to Scamwatch, reports of this type of scam have tripled
Other scams which have seen a spike in reports towards the end
of 2016 include:
Callers who claim to be from Centrelink or the Department of
Human Services and who tell their intended victim that they need to
pay a fee to be sent forms to be completed in order to receive an
increase in benefits
Callers who claim to be from the Australian Cybercrime Online
Reporting Network (ACORN) and ask to be given remote access to the
intended victim's computer
Scammers who target migrants, claiming to be from the
Department of Immigration and Border Protection, demanding money
and threatening deportation
Don't assume that an unsolicited phone call is genuine
Whether you are receiving a phone call at work or at home,
don't accept that the caller is from a bank, the tax office,
Centrelink or another government department. Demand their name and
call them back through the switchboard or contact the organisation
via its website.
If someone tells you you've won the lottery or an
inheritance and all they want is your bank account details to send
you the money, you're better off believing in Santa. Follow the
simple rule – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably
It is worth checking the ACCC's Scamwatch website and
registering to receive alerts about the latest scams.
The Federal Court decision is likely to encourage the ACCC to maintain unconscionable conduct as an enforcement priority.
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