SCAMwatch is warning members of Australia's Chinese community to beware of scammers posing as market researchers from Hong Kong.

SCAMwatch understands that scammers are cold-calling Australians with Asian-sounding names and asking them to participate in some market research. The scammers tell many stories, but often say they are considering opening new branches of their electrical, investment or travel businesses in Australia.

As a reward for participating, consumers are entered into a lucky draw with the chance to win great prizes. Several days later, the scammer contacts the consumer again to notify them that they have won a cash prize and tell them what they must do to claim it. Sometimes this involves checking a website or attending a function, but it nearly always involves making an upfront payment to have the prize money released. The payment could be to cover anything from taxes, to insurance, to legal fees.

But the scammers don't just ask for one upfront payment – they will continue to ask for more payments, only stopping when consumers realise they have been scammed. Unfortunately, many victims have already sent thousands of dollars and very personal details before they realise.

The scammers have already snared victims across the country and SCAMwatch urges you to warn your family, friends and colleagues who might be at risk. SCAMwatch has also issued this scam alert in Chinese to help raise awareness. While the scammers are reported to speak Mandarin and Cantonese, even if you speak fluent English, you could still be a target.

If you have received a prize offer and suspect it could be a scam, or if you have sent money to claim a prize which you now realise is a scam, you can report a scam through the SCAMwatch website.

Stay one step ahead of the scammers. Explore SCAMwatch to learn how to protect yourself from unexpected prize scamsupfront payment scams and other scams which can target you.

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Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered.