Consumers with a disability – be on guard against scammers trying to take advantage of you

18 August 2014

SCAMwatch is warning consumers with a disability to be on guard against scams – unfortunately, scammers target people whom they think may be vulnerable to try and take advantage of them.

Some common scams reported by consumers with a disability include fraudsters claiming:

  • to represent a government authority  or well-known business
  • that they are looking for a relationship
  • that the target has won a lottery or competition.

Scammers employ a range of delivery methods to contact you such as a phone call, text message, email, through an online forum, or even face-to-face by knocking on your door. Their ultimate goal is to obtain your personal information or steal your money.

Consumers with a disability, beware – if you receive an approach out of the blue from someone asking for personal information or money, don’t engage – press ‘delete’, shut the door or just hang up.

How these scams work

Scammers claiming to represent a government agency or legitimate business

  • Many scammers take advantage of consumers’ trust in government authorities and well-known businesses or brands in order to steal your personal details or money.
  • As the National Disability Insurance Scheme rolls out, consumers with a disability should be particularly wary of anyone who contacts them claiming to be from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and asking for personal or financial information.
  • Scammers will often claim that you are entitled to a refund or payment from the government or business. However, in order to receive the money, they will claim that you first need to make a payment to them to cover taxes, fees or administration costs.
  • To make this payment, they will either ask you to hand over your financial details or send money via a wire transfer. Alternatively, they may ask you to click on a link in an email to fill out a form or find out more information.
  • If you hand over your personal details to a scammer, they may be used to commit identity theft or to take your money. If you hand over money, you won’t get it back. If you click on a link in a scam email, your computer may become infected with malicious software and compromise its security.

The NDIA advises that it will not ask for your financial details over the phone or via email.  If you receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to represent the NDIA and you are unsure whether they are the real deal, hang up. You can then call the NDIA using their official contact number: 1800 650 717.

Dating and romance scams

  • Scammers often approach people online claiming to be looking for love. They will form an emotional attachment with their victims and then take advantage of this to repeatedly ask for money.
  • You meet someone online through a dating or social networking website. Your admirer asks to communicate outside of the platform (thereby away from any safeguards that the platform may have).
  • You find yourself become increasingly emotionally involved with your admirer as you communicate with them over weeks, months and sometimes even years.
  • At some point your admirer asks you to provide financial assistance to help cover costs associated with illness, injury, a family crisis, or even to cover costs to travel and meet you. They will typically ask you to send the money via wire transfer.
  • If you send them money, you will then receive further requests or pleas for money.  If you do so, you risk being left broke and with a broken heart.

Never send money to someone you have not met face-to-face. If your online admirer asks for money, no matter what the reason is, ask yourself: ‘Do I really know who I’m dealing with?’

Unexpected prize scams

  • Scammers often send emails, text messages or letters to people claiming that they have won cash or a prize in a fake overseas lottery or a competition – one that they never entered in the first place.
  • If you respond to a notification that you’ve won a lottery or competition that you never entered, you will be asked to make a payment via wire transfer to cover ‘taxes’ or ‘administration fees’ before the prize or cash can be released.
  • If you hand over your money, you will never see it again, and the promised prize will never arrive.

If you are notified that you have won a prize or lottery, ask yourself – did I even enter it? If not, press ‘delete’ or throw it in the bin – it’s a scam.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive an approach out of the blue from someone asking for personal information or money, don’t engage – press ‘delete’, shut the door or just hang up.
  • If you have doubts about the identity of a caller who claims to represent a government authority or business, contact the authority or business directly. Don’t rely on contact details provided by the person – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • If you receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to represent the NDIA and you are unsure whether they are the real deal, hang up and then call the NDIA using their official contact number: 1800 800 110.
  • Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have listed your number on the Australian Government’s Do Not Call Register. Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently or from anywhere it has been publicly listed such as in a phone book.
  • Keep your personal details personal: Never share personal, banking or credit card information or photos with someone you don’t know and trust.
  • Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in, or reply to, suspicious emails – they may take you to a bogus website or contain a malicious virus.
  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Report

You can report scams to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch report a scam page.

You can provide information about suspected fraudulent or unethical behaviour impacting the NDIS by email at fraudreporting@ndis.gov.au or by calling 1800 650 717. Information may be provided anonymously.

More information

The NDIA has issued a media release scams targeting NDIS participants: ‘Protecting your personal details from scammers’.

Stay one step ahead of scammers – follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.

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