Scams Awareness Week 2021 takes place 8-12 November. This Scams Awareness Week we’re encouraging everyone to start a conversation about scams to reduce stigma and help people recognise a scam sooner, or prevent scams from happening in the first place.
Scams cost Australian consumers, businesses, and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each year and cause serious emotional harm to victims and their families.
In 2020 Australians made more than 216,000 reports to Scamwatch and reported losses of around $178 million. By the end of September this year, Australians had lost even more: Scamwatch received more than 226,000 reports with reported losses of over $222 million.
As alarming as these numbers are, we know that around one third of people who are scammed never tell anyone, so the true numbers are probably much higher.
One of the reasons someone who’s been scammed might not report it is that people can feel shame or embarrassment about what has happened to them. However, by talking about scams we can reduce the stigma and work together to stop them.
See a list of this year's Scams Awareness Week campaign partners
Speak up today
When you speak up and share your scam story you take away the scammer's power and help protect other people from them.
How to talk about scams
Having a conversation about scams with your workmates, friends and family is an essential part of stopping scams and protecting people you care about.
Talking about scams may help others identify a scam, raise awareness about the impacts of scams and help prevent them from falling victim to a scam.
People who get scammed often feel unable to start a conversation about what is happening or don’t even realise they're in a scam. That’s why this Scams Awareness Week we are encouraging everyone to start those conversations.
Start a conversation using TALK:
Talk to your friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues about the scams you see and ask them if they have seen any.
Ask a simple question like “Have you ever been scammed?” or “How do you avoid scams?”
Listen to people talk about their scam stories and experiences. If people share their scam stories, be sure to listen actively and without judgement. Showing you care can help someone open up and you might learn something too.
Keep talking about scams and scam experiences. The more we talk about scams, the less likely we will get caught in one and the less stigma there will be in talking about scams. So, talk to as many people as you can about scams!
Scam stories: how speaking up helps
All of these case studies are examples of real scams. Names and some details have been changed.
Harry’s story: Online shopping and classified scams
Harry saw a second hand vehicle advertised on Facebook Marketplace for a cheap price. The listing asked interested buyers to email the seller rather than communicating through Facebook. The seller told Harry they were in a hurry to sell the car and couldn’t accommodate an inspection prior to payment as she worked in the Air Force and was unable to leave base. Harry thought this was strange, so he spoke to some of his friends about the ad, who told him that they had seen something similar before and that it was a scam.
Harry’s friends told him that if the price was too good to be true, he shouldn’t proceed. Harry then abandoned the transaction and managed to avoid losing money to this scam.
Joanna’s story: Threat based scams
Joanna received a call from a scammer claiming to be police who told her she had sent a parcel to China that had been intercepted and illegal bank cards had been found in the parcel.
The scammer told Joanna she had committed financial fraud and needed to send personal information, including identification cards and banking information to "prove her innocence” and pay $2,000 to avoid further action being taken against her. The scammer also told Joanna she had to keep the phone call a secret and that she wouldn’t get in trouble for the fraud as long as she didn’t tell anyone else.
Joanna sent the money but became worried she had been scammed and that the scammer would try to get money from her again in the future. Joanna decided to tell her friends about what had happened. Her friends told her this was a scam targeting the Chinese community. Had Joanna not spoken to someone about her experience, it is possible she may have continued to send money to this scammer and lost even more.
Simon’s story: Dating and romance scams
Simon met a woman on Google Hangouts and began a relationship with her. Shortly after they had started talking online, the woman asked Simon to buy gift cards for her. Simon did this a few times, but his girlfriend kept asking for more cards.
One day when Simon went to his local supermarket to buy more gift cards he heard warnings over the loudspeaker about scammers using gift cards. When Simon approached the counter to make his purchase, the checkout attendant at the supermarket asked Simon some questions about the gift cards and told him that this is a common tactic for scammers. She encouraged him to ignore whoever was asking him to buy the gift cards.
Simon realised he was being scammed. Although he had already lost money when purchasing gift cards in the past, this conversation at the supermarket helped him get out of the scam sooner than he might have otherwise and prevented him from losing any more money.
Sally’s story: Remote access scams
Scammers phoned Sally several times claiming that she purchased security software in 2016, which Sally believed she may have done. The scammers said the software subscription had run out and Sally needed to give them remote access to her computer to remove it.
When Sally told her mother, Gillian, about this, Gillian said to tell the scammers to call her next time they contacted Sally. When the scammers called Gillian, she asked for their business name and address. They gave the business name and a website address which Gillian looked up and saw it was not a site related to a security software company. Sally blocked the scammer's calls.
Laura’s Story: Flubot
Laura received a text message about having a missed call and clicked through a series of links to try and access the message. Nothing immediately apparent occurred but she later began receiving replies from unknown numbers via her 101 Telstra message service.
Some of the voice messages said that they were returning Laura’s call (which she hadn’t made). After deleting the information, she checked her Telstra account and saw that there were over 5000 text messages from her number at one specific time.
Laura immediately called Telstra technical staff and they advised her that she’d downloaded the flubot malware from clicking the links in the original message. They helped Laura reset her phone which meant she didn’t lose any more info to the scammers.
We know that talking scams isn’t easy. So, a way to get the conversation started is by playing a game. We have three activities available:
If you are an organisation and would like to join the campaign and help get people talking about scams.
Scamwatch tools and resources
The Scamwatch and ACCC websites contain a range of tools and resources about scams.
- Scamwatch Report Form: If you’ve come across a scam you can report it here.
- Scamwatch reporting statistics: Provides up-to-date statistics on scams reported by Australians.
- Targeting Scams Reports: Our yearly report on scam trends and statistics.
- Helping a friend or family member who is a victim to a scam: Useful information if someone close to you has been scammed.
- Be Safe, Be Alert Online: Information on organisations who may be able to help when someone has been scammed.
- Where else to get help: Other organisations who might be able to help when someone has fallen victim to a scam.
- Little Black Book of Scams: Information on identifying a scam (available digitally in a range of languages).