A family member who is a target of a scam may be too caught up in the scammer’s web of deceit to recognise they are being scammed. You can play a vital role in protecting your loved one from harm.
Identify the scam
The first thing you can do to help a family member or friend is to work out whether they are being or have been scammed.
Our types of scams page provides useful information on the main scams in circulation. See if you can recognise any of the warning signs.
You may need to investigate. For example, find out what the opportunity is and get the information in writing. Take the time to review the fine print to see if it’s legitimate. Research unfamiliar companies with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Run image searches on photos of admirers to see if the photo has been used in other scams.
Once you have confirmed the scam, ask your family member what they would like to happen next. This helps them to feel they are taking control.
Grooming occurs when a scammer builds a trusting relationship with the target through regular contact. Scammers will attempt to convince their victim that they are their friend or in some cases, a romantic interest.
In many cases, once the scammer has successfully groomed the target and gained their trust, they will attempt to alienate and isolate the person from their family, friends and colleagues.
It is also very common for victims to become targets for further scams.
Real life story
If you see a lifestyle change that’s out of the ordinary, you need to ask yourself why.
For example, if your outgoing grandparent suddenly becomes withdrawn, that’s a sign something could be wrong.
Look for any suspicious or unusual activities and review financial statements.
How to help
If your family member agrees, you should ensure that all contact with the scammer stops. Find out exactly what personal information has been revealed.
Block the scammer’s email address or ‘unfriend’ them from any social media sites or apps. Consider changing your family member’s email address and phone number, especially if contact from the scammer continues. Their telephone provider may agree to change their number for free. If a physical address has been given, seek advice from local police.
Your ability to help will be made harder if your family member is in denial and does not accept they are being scammed. Try searching online for the scammer’s details, which will often lead to anti-scam websites where the scammer is already known. Show these results to your family member. You can also show them how many people get scammed every year by using the types of scams data on this website or by referring them to other real life stories.
A representative of your local police or scam victim support group may also be willing to talk things through.
Victims are often embarrassed or afraid to tell their family when they have a problem. They fear losing their independence and do not want you to think they’re incapable or vulnerable.
They may withdraw from contact and will not discuss the problem openly. Emotions may include anger, depression, self-reproach, and guilt.
It is also normal for you to feel frustrated or helpless, particularly if your loved one is in denial.
Remain patient and supportive, and remember that they may be experiencing strong emotions, even if they do not immediately show it. Talking about the issue with a support person may prove useful.
Never ridicule or make fun of someone’s circumstances. How family, friends and organisations treat the victim directly influences their mental health.
Has a family member or friend been scammed?
You can report scams to the ACCC on someone else’s behalf via the report a scam page.
We also provide guidance on where to get help.
Protect yourself from scams. There are steps that everyone can take to keep safe from scams.
Tools & resources. Refer your loved one to the useful tools and resources on our site.