Up-front payment & advanced fee frauds

Up-front payment and advanced fee frauds ask you to send money up-front in order to later receive some sort of 'reward', such as a prize, discounted holiday, or pre-approved loan.

Common examples of up-front payment scams

  • Reclaim scams – the scammer claims that you are entitled to some sort of reimbursement or rebate, but have to pay a fee to receive it.
  • Inheritance scams – the scammer claims you have inherited a large sum of money but have to pay a fee to access it.
  • Unexpected prize and lottery scams – the scammer tells you that you have won a prize or a competition but you have to pay a fee to receive it.
  • Travel prize scams – the scammer offers you a free or discounted holiday on the condition that you buy 'travel vouchers' before booking.
  • Native language scams – the scammer targets households that speak languages other than English and makes phone calls in that language pretending to be a friend or relative asking for emergency financial aid. Similar scams also target English speakers.
  • Rental scams – the scammer advertises cheap rental properties online, asking you to pay a booking fee, but fails to deliver the service.
  • Promises of goods or profits from commodities such as gold, gemstones and oil – the scammer makes false promises of free goods or a share in the profitable business, but asks you to pay a fee in order to take part.

The scammer will ask you to pay a fee or provide your bank account details in order to gain access to the offer. If you send money you may find that you receive nothing in return, or that you don’t get what you were promised. If you provide your credit card or banking details, you may find that more than the requested fee was taken.

Warning signs

  • You receive an unsolicited email, letter, telephone call or visit from a 'salesperson' promising you something exciting or valuable for a small upfront payment or fee.
  • You are offered an impressive 'reward' such as a prize, a holiday, a discount on a car repair service, a pre-approved loan or credit card application or even a sum of money.
  • You are told that you need to pay an up-front cost such as an administration fee, taxes or postage and shipping costs.
  • The 'reward' is much greater than the amount that you are asked to pay up-front.

Protect yourself

  • Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Note that government departments will never contact you asking you to pay money upfront in order to claim a fee or rebate.
  • Legitimate credit card or loan providers will not ask you to pay a fee to guarantee approval, and banks and credit unions will only allow you to have a credit card if you meet their criteria. No one can guarantee these approvals in exchange for a fee.
  • Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.
  • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the letter/email to check for any references to a scam – many scams can be identified this way.
  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Have you been scammed?

If you've been scammed there are steps you can take to minimise the damage and prevent further loss.

If you've disclosed your credit card, banking account details or other personal details, contact your financial institution and other relevant agencies.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

If the scammer made contact on a shopping, dating or social media site please contact the relevant website to let them know the scammer’s profile name and any other details that may help them to stop others being scammed.

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