Scams work because they look like the real thing and scammers contact you when you’re not expecting it, or busy trying to do many things at once.

Criminals take advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events. They use them to create believable stories that convince you to give them your money, financial or personal details. 

Always stop, think and check before you act. Scammers rely on you not spotting these warning signs because you're in a hurry, you don't want to miss something that looks like a great deal, or because it seems like it's from someone you trust.

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What is a scam?

Scams are economic crimes run by criminals who are often very organised and sophisticated.

A scam is:

  • when someone deceives you into providing personal or financial information so they can steal from you

A scam is NOT:

  • someone hacking your computer, device or account to steal from you
  • buying something that turns out to be poor quality
  • paying more than something is worth

Not all negative experiences are scams. While it's disappointing if you buy something that's not as described, it doesn't make it a scam. You have rights under the Australian Consumer Law for these sorts of issues.

Common signs of a scam

It can be very hard to spot a scam, but there are some warning signs to watch for:

Scammers trick you into believing you’re getting an incredible deal or offer. They pressure you to act quickly so you don’t miss out. Remember, deals that seem too good to be true, usually are.

Scammers try to use your good nature against you. They tell heartbreaking or tragic stories to convince you to help them and give them money. Always be wary of any appeal for money and never give more money than you are willing to lose if you can't independently confirm that the story is true.

Never automatically click a link or attachment you receive via email or text. Scammers try to catch you off guard and send you to scam websites designed to steal your information and money.

Always make sure that the sender is who they say they are and that you know what you are opening. It's safest to find the information yourself by browsing to the website or app rather than clicking on a link.

Scammers don’t want you to take your time to think things through. They use techniques designed to catch you off guard and rush you, either saying if you don’t you’ll miss out or threatening that something bad will happen.

If a person asks you to pay with preloaded debit cards, iTunes cards, or virtual currency like Bitcoin, chances are it's a scam. Once this money is spent, you can’t get it back.

If someone asks you to set up a new bank account or PayID in order to pay them (or be paid by them), this is a clear sign you should be suspicious. It could be a scam, or money laundering. Your bank will never ask you to open new accounts to keep your money safe. Stop and check who you are dealing with.

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Watch out for follow-up scams

If scammers have been successful, they will try to get more money. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 victims of a scam have been scammed more than once. If scammers have stolen your money, financial or personal information, watch out for new scams -  especially if someone contacts you to 'help you get your money back'.

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