Global financial crisis—another excuse for a scam

8 January 2009

SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be on the lookout for scammers who might seek to exploit the global financial crisis by luring consumers into providing private financial details or financial payments.

Banking or phishing scams

In Australia, more than 17 000 consumers who contacted the ACCC lost at least $33 million in the last year alone to scams of one type or another.

One of the most common types of scam involves fake emails, purportedly from banks or credit card companies, asking for personal financial details or payment of moneys.

Tough economic times can make people more vulnerable to scams. And scammers often adjust their messages to take into account current high-profile events or economic developments.

To date there have not been widespread reports in Australia about scams based around the global financial crisis, but there is a clear possibility that scammers may look to capitalise on current financial uncertainty to 'phish' for your personal financial information. SCAMwatch is therefore warning consumers to be particularly wary about bank-related scams.

The United States Federal Trade Commission recently issued a warning to consumers to be on the lookout for unsolicited email messages purporting to be from their bank that seek to take advantage of uncertainty about financial markets. The commission has provided an example:

During our acquisition of XYZ Savings and Loans, we experienced a data breach. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click on the link below to confirm your identity.

So while fake bank emails or phishing scams are not new, the current focus on financial issues means such emails are more likely to catch the attention of consumers. 

Scams use a variety of tactics to profit from consumers. It is important to realise that this isn't just about direct requests for money—SCAMwatch is also warning consumers to be wary of requests for personal information, especially for personal financial or banking details.

Phishing scams are all about tricking consumers into giving out their personal information to commit identity theft or steal money. The scammer aims to obtain your banking password, account/credit card numbers or any other personal details. The emails can often look genuine, with the use of similar website designs, logos or letterheads from well-known financial institutions.

Don't be fooled—legitimate financial institutions will not require you to disclose sensitive personal information (such as account passwords, account/credit card numbers etc.) via an unsolicited email or phone call.

Warning signs for phishing scams

  • Your supposed bank emails/calls to require you to ‘verify’ personal details because of, for example, data breaches or security upgrades. Banks never require you to disclose sensitive personal information (such as account passwords, account/credit card numbers etc.) via an unsolicited email or phone call.
  • The bank or financial institution emails asking you to fill in a customer survey, which includes providing personal financial details.
  • The email from the bank or financial institution asks you to pay or authorise financial charges on your account or credit card.
  • The email alleges that money has been withdrawn from your account or credit card that you need to check.
  • You receive a prize or free gift offer out-of-the-blue that appears too good to be true but for which you must provide your credit card or banking details.
  • There are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes—the only people who make money are the scammers.


Employment scams

With possible changes in job markets, employment scams are also proliferating. Scammers commonly post job advertisements through employment sites or classifieds.

One type of employment scam requires the prospective employee to accept regular sums of money into their bank account in return for a commission. This could be money-laundering whereby the money is then transferred by the employee into another account set up by the employer. Sounds easy, but taking up this type of job may result in your bank account being frozen, having your identity stolen or even inquiries from police about possible money-laundering.

Protect yourself from scams

  • NEVER provide your personal details to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  • If you receive any notifications from your supposed bank, check that the request is genuine. Don’t click on the link provided in an email or call the phone number provided to you; instead, find the contact details by a general internet search or use the number provided in your bank account statement.
  • Review your account statement regularly to check for unauthorised charges. 
  • Use anti-virus, anti-spyware and a good firewall to protect your computer.
  • NEVER respond to job employment advertisements that require you to transfer money on the employer’s behalf. Be wary of any job offers that require minimal or no work for a substantial amount of money.
  • Always get independent advice if an offer involves money, time or commitment.

Report

Report the matter via the report a scam page in SCAMwatch.

More information

Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about:

  • banking and online account scams (including phishing).
  • job and employment scams.
  • money transfer scams (including upfront payment scams).
  • lottery and competition scams (including fake prizes).

Find out more about scams that commonly target Australians and tips on how to protect yourself in the Little Black Book of Scams.

Read more