Australia: Consumers urged to be wary of scams over Christmas

Last Updated: 14 December 2016
Article by Nathan Luke

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

In its report, Targeting scams – Report of the ACCC on scams activity in 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that in 2015 it received 105,000 reports of scams, 14,000 more than the previous year. The amount lost to scams rose four per cent to $85 million.

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:

  • Investment scams
  • Dating and romance scams
  • Computer prediction software and sports investment schemes
  • Nigerian scams
  • Inheritance scams
  • ID theft involving spam or phishing
  • Fake trader websites
  • Unexpected prize and lottery scams
  • Reclaim 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 scammers

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 since 2015.

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 is.

It is worth checking the ACCC's Scamwatch website and registering to receive alerts about the latest scams.

Nathan Luke
Consumer claims
Stacks Law Firm

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Nathan Luke
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.