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Spam (junk mail) offers

What is a spam (junk mail) offer?

Spam is unsolicited (or junk) electronic messages sent by email, SMS, MMS or instant message. Spam messages can offer free goods or ‘prizes’, very cheap products (including pharmaceuticals), promises of wealth or other offers that could result in you taking part in a scam. You might be asked to pay a joining fee, to buy something to 'win' a prize or some other benefit or to call or text a 190 telephone or fax number (calls made to these numbers are charged at premium rates). Spam messages can offer you anything and everything—from fake college degrees to pirated software and counterfeit designer watches—so it pays to be suspicious and delete unsolicited emails.

Spam messages differ from regular printed junk mail in one major way—responding to a spam message can cause you many problems. You may find that malicious software like spyware or key-loggers has been downloaded onto your computer. You may find you are bombarded with more spam messages. Your credit card numbers or other personal details may be stolen. You may send away money for something that never arrives or is not what you thought it would be.

Warning signs

  • You receive an unsolicited email that contains:
    • an invitation to participate in any type of lottery or sweepstake
    • an offer of uninvited gifts or goods from any source
    • an offer from overseas
    • a request to pay a fee to receive more 'benefits' from the same provider
    • an offer from an unregistered lottery
    • an offer of special benefits (e.g. wealth, love, health) from someone claiming psychic powers
    • an offer of a gambling system that guarantees winners.

Protect yourself against spam (junk mail) offers

  • Speak to your internet service provider about spam filtering or purchase a spam filter for your email account.
  • Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam): delete them.
  • Do not click on any links in a spam email, or open any files attached to them.
  • Never call a telephone number that you see in a spam email or text message.
  • NEVER reply to a spam email (even to unsubscribe).
  • Never enter your personal, credit card or online account information on a website that you are not certain is genuine.
  • Never email your personal, credit card or online account details.
  • Use your commonsense: the offer may be a scam.
  • Read all the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully: claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.
  • Do not send any money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings.

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

Do your homework

Remember that letters, electronic messages and other approaches offering you something that looks too good to be true are almost always scams.

If you are interested in an offer, use a search engine to locate the firm’s website address. Web-based forums may provide some insight into the activities of the firm. You should be wary if you cannot find information on the firm. If you are still unsure, contact your local office of fair trading to see whether it can tell you more about the offer.

Be sure that you know what the offer is actually for, what the total cost will be and what to do if something goes wrong (e.g. the product is not delivered or does not work).

Seek independent advice from an accountant or solicitor if a significant amount of money is involved. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account details to ANYBODY you are not completely sure about. Even if you receive an electronic message from a friend or relative asking for these details, check with them first with a phone call or alternate contact before you respond.

For more information on spam offers and how they can be scams, check out the ACCC leaflet, If it sounds too good to be true…


If you receive a spam offer, the best thing to do is delete it. DO NOT respond. Do not reply or attempt to unsubscribe, do not call any telephone number listed in the email and do not send any money, credit card details or other personal details to the scammers. Responding to email spam only indicates that your email address is active and you could end up with lots more fake offers in the future.

If you are interested in what the electronic message is offering, it is still best not to follow any link contained in the email. Internet links do not always lead where their name says they do. Sometimes, clicking on a link will download a malicious program to your computer. Make sure you have done your homework before doing anything to take up an offer from an electronic message.

Report them

If you have received a spam offer that you think may be a scam, you can report a scam through the SCAMwatch website. You should also tell your friends and family about the scam.

Anti-spam legislation (the Spam Act 2003) deals with spam with Australian links and the techniques that spammers use to send Australian consumers unsolicited electronic messages by email, SMS, MMS or instant message. The Australian Communications and Media Authority regulates spam in Australia. If you would like to report or complain about spam, or obtain more information on spam laws, spam reduction and internet security, visit Spam & e–Security on the ACMA website.


What to do if you've been scammed; Scams & the law; Report a scam.

Similar scams:

Online auctions can be rigged by scammers or used to target you for a scam outside of the auction site. You could end up with a dud product or nothing at all for your money.

Scams that send you a fake renewal notice for your actual domain name, or a misleading invoice for a domain name that is very similar to your own.

Offers of ‘free’ website access, downloads, holidays, shares or product trials – but you have to supply your credit card or other personal details.

Modem-jacking scams secretly change the phone number dial-up modems use to access the internet to an overseas or premium rate phone number. You could pay hundreds of dollars extra.

Spyware is a type of software that spies on what you do on your computer. Key-loggers record what keys you press on your keyboard. Scammers can use them to steal your online banking passwords or other personal information.

You are promised huge rewards if you help someone transfer money out of their country by paying fees or giving them your bank account details.

Employment opportunities that promise huge incomes with little work – usually by asking you to transfer money for someone else or recruit new victims.

Fake online pharmacies offer drugs and medicines at very cheap prices or without a prescription. They can cause you major health and money problems.

Miracle cure scams prey on the sick or desperate by selling drugs or treatments that don’t work or are even dangerous.

False claims are made to mislead you into buying ‘revolutionary’ pills, creams, diet advice or machines.

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