Spot the scam signs

Are you able to spot the signs of a scam when you see them? Challenge yourself with these five common scam examples.

Before you get started

Remember that scammers:

  • try to gain trust by claiming to be from a well-known business or impersonating a known contact
  • will suggest their own verification procedures, like going to websites they have created or calling numbers they provide to you
  • know how to appeal to your emotions and press your buttons to get what they want
  • create a sense of urgency to get you to make decisions without thinking.

1. Phishing scam: Bank SMS

You receive a new SMS from your bank. After looking at it closely, you realise that although the previous SMS was real, the new SMS is a scam.

What are the five signs that this is a scam?

Image of phone with SMS from bank

Check your responses against the answers. How many did you get right?

2. Online shopping scam

You’ve been thinking about buying a new barbeque, then you see an ad on social media for a website that’s selling brand-named barbeques for an amazing price. You click on the link in the ad and it takes you to a website.

What are the four signs that the website is a scam?

Image of website selling BBQs

Check your responses against the answers. How many did you get right?

3. Classified scam

You’ve decided to buy a Dachshund puppy. You see an ad on an online classified website for a cute puppy at an amazing price. The ad claims they’re a reputable breeder, but they haven’t provided breeder association membership numbers for you to check.

What are the four signs that this ad is a scam?

Image of phone with classified ad selling puppy

Check your responses against the answers. How many did you get right?

4. Phishing scam: Mail delivery

You’ve recently purchased something online and are waiting for it to be delivered. You receive an email about a failed delivery and it’s asking you to update your details. Before you click on the link, you carefully consider the email again and realise it’s a scam.

What are the five signs that this email is a scam?

Image of phone with message about postal delivery

Check your responses against the answers. How many did you get right?

5. Business email compromise scam

You’re at work and you’re about to log off for the week. Just before you do, you receive an email from your CEO about an urgent payment. Your first thought is to action his instructions immediately, but then you realise he’s asked you to do something somewhat different to your usual process. You carefully consider the email again and realise it’s a scam.

What are three signs that this email is a scam?

Image of email requesting payment

Check your responses against the answers. How many did you get right?

    Answers

    1. Phishing scam: Bank SMS

    Image of phone with SMS from bank indicating scam signs

    1. Scammers can make messages look real. Even if you’ve previously received legitimate SMS messages from the same number, don’t assume all following messages are real. Scammers can ‘spoof’ real phone numbers or email addresses, to make it appear that they come from your actual bank or another legitimate contact.
    2. It's different in style from the first SMS. The previous SMS is legitimate and it provides information only. It tells you to log into your account but provides no links that could lead to potentially malicious websites.
    3. It has a malicious link. The new SMS contains a link to a phishing website. These types of websites attempt to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account details, passwords and credit card numbers.  Even if you think the text might be real, it’s safer not to click on any links, and to log into your account by typing your bank’s URL (Uniform Resource Locator) directly into the address bar. The address bar appears at the top of your web browser, and the numbers and letters that make up the URL are the directions to the website or webpage.
    4. It's not secure. Legitimate sites containing sensitive information will use https not http, but don’t rely on this alone — some scam sites use https too.
    5. It has a sense of urgency. Scams often try to create a sense of urgency. Don’t rush — take the time to think about what the message is telling you to do and consider whether it’s real.

    2. Online shopping scam

    Image of website selling BBQs indicating scam signs

    1. It's not secure. When online shopping, always look for the https (not http) and the padlock icon in the address bar to ensure there’s a secure connection between you and the website. Don’t rely on this alone, as some scam websites use https too.
    2. It has a sense of urgency. Scammers try to create a sense of urgency to encourage you to do something quickly. Don’t rush — take the time to do your research and consider whether a website is real.
    3. The deal is too good to be true. The price might be enticing, but remember that scams often present offers that really are too good to be true.
    4. It's using a non-secure payment method. Think about how they’re asking you to pay. Scammers often ask you to pay by non-secure payment methods such as wire, bank or international funds transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These methods are difficult to track and it’s rare to recover money sent this way. Always look for secure payment options such as PayPal or credit card.

    3. Classified scam

    Image of phone with classified ad selling puppy indicating scam signs

    1. There's no evidence of the puppy. Puppy scammers often steal photos from legitimate breeders' websites and post them on their own. Use image search services such as Google or TinEye to do a reverse-image search to find out if a picture has been posted elsewhere on the internet. Never trust photos alone — always ask to see the puppy in person and, if that’s not possible, ask for additional photos and videos.
    2. It's too good to be true. The price might be enticing, but remember that scams often present offers that really are too good to be true.
    3. There are other up-front costs to consider. Puppy scammers often claim that they live or have moved interstate or overseas, so you’ll need to pay extra costs like transport, insurance or customs costs. Local pickup will usually not appear as an option.
    4. The payment method is not secure. Think about how they’re asking you to pay. Scammers often ask you to pay by non-secure payment methods. It’s rare to recover money sent this way. Always look for secure payment options such as PayPal or credit card.

    4. Phishing scam: Mail delivery

    Image of phone with message about postal delivery indicating scam signs

    1. You can't confirm who it's from. Check that the email address of the sender is authentic. In this example, the domain name (the part of the email address after the @ symbol) is a sign that it’s not real. If you’re unsure, contact the business directly using contact details that you've sourced independently and you know are legitimate.
    2. It has spelling and grammatical errors. These types of errors are a sign that it could be a scam.
    3. It has a request for you to do something. The email is trying to obtain your personal details. If scammers gain access to your personal information they can potentially steal your identity or target you with a scam. Be cautious when providing your details.
    4. It has a malicious link. Don’t just be wary of attachments. Watch out for links to phishing websites. It’s safer to go directly to the service provider’s website by typing the URL directly into the address bar.
    5. There's a sense of urgency. Scammers try to create a sense of urgency to encourage you to do something quickly. Don’t rush — take the time to consider and check whether an email is real.

    5. Business email compromise scam

    Image of email requesting payment indicating scam signs

    1. You can't confirm who it's from. Scammers often use email addresses that are similar to a real email address. Check that the sender's email address is the real one. Look carefully — the letter 'i' in 'services' is actually a different character. These kinds of differences might be really hard to spot.
    2. It has a sense of urgency. Scammers try to create a sense of urgency to encourage you to do something quickly without thinking it through or checking that it’s genuine. Don’t rush — take the time to consider and check whether an email is real.
    3. Some things have changed. Business email compromise scammers will try to divert payments to their own bank accounts. Always verify changes to payment details directly with the recipient, using known and trusted contact details. Don’t deviate from your organisation’s payment procedure, which may include going through a finance, accounting or payment team, even if the request appears to come from your CEO or senior manager.

    Know what to look for

    It’s easier to spot a scam if you know what to look for. Remember to be careful if someone:

    • you don’t know contacts you out of the blue
    • you’ve never met in person asks for money
    • asks you to pay for something or to give them money through unusual payment methods such as gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrencies
    • asks you to pay for something in advance — especially through an unusual payment method
    • asks you for personal information, like your bank details or passwords, or access to your computer
    • pressures you into buying something or making a decision quickly
    • offers you something that sounds too good to be true — like an online shopping deal, a prize for winning a competition, an unclaimed inheritance or an invitation to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme.

    More information

    Types of scams