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Victim lists

What is a victim list?

Victim lists are directories of people who have previously responded to an offer or fallen victim to a scam. These lists contain personal information and contact details and are compiled for the purpose of approaching those listed with other  scams.

Lists may have initially been compiled by direct marketing companies or list brokers for genuine marketing purposes. Increasingly however these lists are created and traded by scammers on the blackmarket. Lists also increasingly identify individuals who may be particularly vulnerable to deceptive offers and scams.

Victim lists can contain a variety of sensitive personal and financial information including:

  • name
  • income
  • occupation
  • home address
  • work, home and mobile telephone numbers
  • personal e-mail addresses
  • financial account/credit card numbers.

Scammers will trawl the internet for your personal details and have also been know to search public phone books and online directories, your postal mailbox or even your recycling bin to get hold of discarded personal documents such as bank statements and bills.

Victim lists are sometimes referred to by scammers as ‘lead lists’ or ‘suckers’ lists, however you are far from a sucker if your name is on a list. You might end up on a list if you have ever replied to a promotion sent to you or if you have subscribed to a service online and failed to tick the box requesting that your contact details not be passed on. The stigma or embarrassment of being on one of these lists can wrongly make victims think they are to blame, and discourage them from reporting these crimes or seeking help.

Scams using victim lists

One example occurs when someone falls victim to a scam, providing money to a scammer.  Following payment, they are contacted out of the blue by either the same or another scammer posing as a law enforcement officer or a private investigating body. The scammer will tell the victim that they have been scammed and will request payment so that the law enforcement body can investigate the scam to try and retrieve the money lost.

The fake law enforcement officer may alternatively claim that they have caught the initial scammer and that the victim is entitled to a refund of their money if they first pay an upfront fee.

Scammer often pretend to be from overseas law enforcement so the victim cannot easily call the body to verify the legitimacy of the investigation or refund offer.

Warning signs

  • You receive a number of offers/scam approaches out of the blue, often via unsolicited phone calls, emails or letters.
  • You may have fallen victim to a scam previously and within 12 months receive a similar suspicious approach.
  • You have registered your details on a website and may have failed to tick a box requesting that your contact details not be sold or passed on.

Protect yourself from being added to a victim list

  • Be cautious—if you receive any offer which seems too good to be true, it probably is. Hang up immediately, delete the email or ignore the letter!
  • Do not respond to scam emails, even to unsubscribe or to say you know it is a scam! 
  • If you have fallen victim to a scam or you receive a lot of unsolicited emails and phone calls consider changing your email address and phone numbers.
  • Never give your details to any company or provide them through a website, regardless of what they are offering, unless you are sure they can be trusted.
  • If you are considering providing your details to a company via their website, read their privacy policy/terms and conditions first.  If you do not agree with how they will use your details, do not provide them. 
  • When subscribing to a service or completing an application form, most companies will give you the option to tick a box requesting that your details are not shared with any other companies. Be alert – this option may be hidden at the end of the form or in small print. 
  • Keep your postal mail safe by placing a lock on your mailbox. 
  • Always shred/destroy personal documents before you dispose of them.

As well as following these specific tips, find out how to protect yourself from all sorts of other scams.

Report scams

If you think you’ve spotted a scam, report a scam to SCAMwatch or contact the ACCC on 1300 795 995. You should also spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2014