According to the ACCC, scammers predominantly target older Australians, perhaps assuming they are more trusting and less internet savvy. But by educating yourself and keeping up to date with the latest scams, you’ll be far less likely to fall victim to any of the scams. Especially if you’re downsizing to move to a retirement village or land lease community and selling unwanted items on sites like eBay or Gumtree, you are at risk of being caught by one of these scams we outline below.
Rule number one is to be careful with your ID and financial information such as PINs and bank card details. One recent scam saw people forwarding their ID documents when applying to buy a car and then having that ID used to set up fake accounts that were then used to scam others.
Email is another source of phishing scams. Here, you will receive an email that looks like it comes from a reputable source, such as the ATO, Telstra or your bank. You may be offered a discount ‒ or told that there is a problem with your account ‒ and you need to ‘click on the link’ or share your account details to get further information. Often, if you look at the email address, it differs from the genuine one. Simply delete any emails that don’t look quite right, that sound threatening or that offer you an unlikely discount, prize or offer.
You pick up the phone and someone tells you they are calling from your internet provider and need to carry out upgrades with them over the phone. This scam usually involves the scammer accessing all of your personal data, which they can then use for fraudulent purposes. If someone calls up and tells you to sit down at your computer and do as they say, hang up.
Text message scams
Here, you might get a message from someone saying ‘hi, mum, i’ve lost my phone and wallet and am calling from a friend’s number. Can you send me some money?’ This one, which started in 2022, reportedly conned Australian victims out of millions of dollars. If your ‘kids’ ask you for money from a number you don’t recognise, speak to them directly to ensure that if you do pay out, it’s going to your actual kids and not a criminal.
And if someone claiming to be a relative or friend asks you to text back to let them know you got their message, ignore it and block the number. Interestingly, such scammers will often deliberately misspell a few words to weed out the more attentive potential victims, so if you notice that a message is badly written, it’s likely to be a scam, too.
Social media scams
What you share online can also get you into trouble. If you’re away on holidays, should you let the whole world see your photos? Or will that alert people to the fact that your house is empty? Either lock down your privacy settings or share them when you are back home. On this note, never, ever accept a friend request from someone you don’t know, even if they are friends with your existing contacts.
If you use social media platforms like Instagram, you might notice sometimes that you gain a ‘new’ follower you thought you were already friends with. They engage with your posts as they always have, posting the occasional comment or Like, and then one day they message you asking for money via Western Union. These fake accounts play on your existing contacts to draw you into sending money. (On Western Union: NEVER be tempted to send money via Western Union. The request is never genuine and monies to and from Western Union are untraceable.)
Another social media scam comes in the form of an online quiz that asks you for lots of personal information, which can then be used to steal your identity. Always keep your personal details safe online, and don’t answer anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
Online shopping scams
During the pandemic, many people lost thousands of dollars to fake selling sites, from actual online shops to people selling non-existent pure-bred puppies to eBay purchases where the seller wants you to wire the money to them directly rather than paying through the site.
These can catch out the smartest of us. Generally, if you are buying on eBay, always pay through the site so you have a record of your payment if the goods don’t turn up. And be wary of any deals online that appear ‘too good to be true’ – such as a product that is far cheaper than its competitors, for example. Dig around, look for customer reviews and try to speak to someone before sending any money.
Just recently, this scam nearly caught a friend of ours who was downsizing and selling her unwanted furniture on Gumtree. The ‘buyer’ sends an email saying they need to deposit much more money than you’ve asked for the item then you get an email asking you to set up a business PayID account. There’s a good summary of how it works via NAB News/PayID scam.
The best way to stay safe
Never underestimate the value of trusting your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, or if someone is being too pushy, sending lots of messages or insisting you do as they say, feel free to hang up or block them.
Scammers rely on our human instinct to be helpful and agreeable. But if something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to go against that instinct – it can save you a lot of money and heartache.
If you want to educate yourself further, the e-safety commissioner has a wealth of information about staying safe online. This site is also the place to report any scams you encounter. Scamwatch also provides regular updates on the latest scams doing the rounds – sign up for their alerts and stay safe!
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