Scamwatch is warning people to be aware of uninvited offers of help to recover money for an up-front payment, following a spike in reports of money recovery scams.
These scams target people who have already lost money to a previous scam by promising to help victims recover their losses after paying a fee in advance. Australians have lost over $270,000 to these scams so far this year, an increase of 301 per cent.
“Scammers will ask for money and personal information before offering to ‘help’ the victim and will then disappear and stop all contact,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Money recovery scams are particularly nasty as they target scam victims again. These scams can lead to significant psychological distress as many of the people have already lost money or identity information.”
This year Scamwatch has received 66 reports of money recovery scams, a 725 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2021.
Scammers target previous scam victims, contacting them out of the blue, and pose as a trusted organisation such as a law firm, fraud taskforce or government agency. They may have official looking websites and use fake testimonials from other victims they have ‘helped’.
As well as an up-front payment they often ask victims to fill out fake paperwork or provide identity documents. Scammers may request remote access to computers or smart phones, enabling them to scam their unsuspecting victims.
Another tactic scammers use is to contact people by phone or email who haven’t actually been a victim of a scam and convince them that they’ve unknowingly been involved in one and are entitled to a settlement refund.
“If you get contacted out of the blue by someone offering to help recover scam losses for a fee, it is a scam. Hang up the phone, delete the email and ignore any further contacts,” Ms Rickard said.
“Don’t give financial details or copies of identity documents to anyone who you’ve never met in person and never give strangers remote access to your devices.”
“Scammers can be very convincing and one way to spot them is to search online for the name of the organisation who contacted you with words like ‘complaint’, ‘scam’ or ‘review’,” Ms Rickard said.
People who have lost money to a scam should contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible. If they are not happy with the financial institutions response, victims can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority which is a free and independent dispute resolution service. Financial institutions may be able to find where the money was sent, block the scam accounts and help others to avoid sending money to scammers.
People who are a victim of a scam or identity theft should act quickly to reduce the risk of financial loss or other damages. IDCARE is a free government-funded service which will help to develop a specific response plan. They will never contact you out of the blue.
For more advice on how to avoid scams and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of a scam, visit the Scamwatch website. You can also follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.