If you received a call out of the blue from the Tax Office saying you had a tax debt that you had to pay immediately or be arrested, what would you think?
If Telstra called you and said there were internet problems in your area and they needed remote access to your computer in order to help you otherwise they would disconnect your service, what would you do?
While it would be understandable if your initial reaction might be fear or panic, this Scams Awareness Week, Australians are being urged to ‘Stop and check – is this for real?
These calls are examples of threat-based impersonation scams, about which the ACCC’s Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports in 2017. About 85 per cent of these reports indicated the scammer had been in contact by telephone.
In these scams, scammers pretend to be from a government agency or well-known, trusted business and use threats to pressure or scare you into giving them money or your personal information. They may threaten that you will receive a fine, that you will be charged additional fees, that your internet will be disconnected, that the police or debt collectors will come to your home, or that you will be taken to court, arrested or even deported.
These scammers and their threats can seem genuine and frightening. They make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong or that there’s some urgency and you must do what they say immediately or suffer the consequences.
And many people have believed these threats. According to Scamwatch, over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers in 2017.
Older Australians have been particularly vulnerable to these scams – people aged 65 and over submitted more than 5800 of the Scamwatch reports and reported losing almost $1 million last year.
If you’re contacted unexpectedly and threatened by someone that says they’re from a government agency or trusted business, always consider the possibility that it may be a scam – then stop and check if it’s for real.
Keep in mind the following tips to protect yourself:
But if you realise you’ve lost money or given your personal details to a scammer, there are steps you can take straight away to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss:
For more information about these scams, where to get help or to report a scam, visit the Scamwatch website. (www.scamwatch.gov.au/scamsweek2018)