1 in 3 Australians have fallen victim to a financial scam

1 in 3 Australians have fallen victim to a financial scam

Almost one third of Australians have been hit by a financial scam, new RateCity research shows.

In a survey of more than 1,000 Australians, 29 per cent of respondents said they’d been scammed. Scams included credit card hacks, identity theft and people who had been tricked into handing over money.

RateCity survey findings:

  • 29% of Australians have been the victim of a financial scam.
  • 38% of people aged 35-44 years said they have been scammed – the highest of all ages, proving it’s not just older Australians who are vulnerable.
  • 65+ was the second most targeted age bracket, with 32% surveyed saying they’d been hit.

Latest figures from ACCC Scamwatch show scams cost Australians $201 million in the past 12 months – an increase of almost $46 million, year-on-year. In just the first three months of this year, Australians have already been scammed out of $63 million.

Sally Tindall, research director at RateCity, said: “It’s something you hope will never happen to you but alarmingly one in three of us have been the victim of a financial scam.

“A lot of people don’t realise how prevalent financial fraud is until they get hit themselves,” she said.

“Stay on your toes because you could be targeted at any time, and the quicker you pick up the fraud, the faster you can put a lid on it.

“Scammers have an array of tactics to catch people off-guard, whether it’s through an unsolicited text message, by hacking into your email or skimming your credit card.

“As painful as they are to keep track of, it’s worth having strong passwords. Also try to avoid using public Wi-Fi and use secure websites when online shopping.

“Check your bank statements regularly, and if you see a suspicious transaction, query it. Nine times out of ten it’s probably just a shop with a trading name you don’t recognise, but it’s that tenth time that makes checking worth all the fuss.

“It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your credit score which you can access anytime. If your score goes down for no reason, you can get a copy of your credit file and see if there’s any suspicious activity on it,” she said.

What to do if you suspect you’ve been hacked?

  • Check your card and bank statements regularly- if you notice any unusual purchases on your statement, report it to your bank. Banks take fraud seriously and will try to recover any lost money for you.
  • Get a free copy of your credit history- check that all personal information and the loans and debts listed are correct. It’s free to request a copy of your credit file every 12 months.
  • Fix any errors- if something is wrong or out of date, contact the reporting agency and ask them to fix it, it’s a free service. If any loans or debts in your report aren’t correct, contact the bank immediately.
  • Report it- it’s important to notify the appropriate agency (this will depend on the type of scam - it could be your bank, the ACCC Scamwatch, ASIC, Centrelink/Medicare, or the Police) so they can investigate and warn the community to take action.

How to protect yourself from financial scams

  • Use strong passwords - to make it harder for scammers to hack.
  • Be careful when shopping online - only shop on websites that you trust and make sure the website is secure. It will show a closed padlock or key in the URL.
  • Check your credit score monthly - if you notice any unexpected changes to your score, it could be a red flag that something is wrong and should be investigated.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi- if using a public Wi-Fi network, don’t send or receive sensitive information or login to your banking or social media accounts.
  • Review your privacy and security settings on social media- – if you use social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram, review your options for privacy.

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this news?

Advertisement

RateCity
ratecity-newsletter

Money Health Newsletter

Subscribe for news, tips and expert opinions to help you make smarter financial decisions

By submitting this form, you agree to the RateCity Privacy Policy, Terms of Use and Disclaimer.

Advertisement

Learn more about bank accounts

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Australia?

Many Australian lenders allow foreigners to open bank accounts in Australia. Often, this can be done before you arrive in the country – with no Australian address required. When you get to Australia, you can pick up your debit card, using your passport as identification.

How do I close a bank account?

Closing a bank account is one of those tasks that’s easy to put in the too-hard basket. There are quite a few steps involved, some which may require you to hang on the phone for a while.  

Here’s a handy checklist of items to tick off, so the job gets done quicker. If you don’t do your banking online, the following steps can also be done at a branch.   

  • Cancel any scheduled or recurring payments
  • Update your direct debit details (such as loan repayments) with creditors
  • Export your payee address book (to keep a record of saved third-party bank account details)
  • Transfer the balance of your account (to the new bank account)
  • Close your account online, or by calling the bank or visiting a branch

How can I find bank accounts in my name?

To find ‘live’ bank accounts in your name, you’ll have to ask individual lenders, which involves contacting them one by one and proving your identity each time. To find ‘unclaimed’ bank accounts (those that have been inactive for at least seven years), you can use this website.

Can I close my bank account over the phone?

In most cases, you can close a personal or business bank account over the phone. In fact, this is the best way to ensure you’ve closed an account properly.

By speaking to a banking representative, you can capture and close out any pending transactions, or interest owing/payable on the account being closed.

In the instance where the account is a joint account, or you have multiple bank accounts you want to close, your bank may send you a form that you need to fill out and return.

Either way, you would be advised over the phone of the steps you need to take. Calling your bank ahead of closing an account is often a smart course of action.

Can I open a bank account in another country?

Despite having a bad rap for facilitating tax evasion, it is possible and legal to open a bank account in another country, also known as an ‘offshore account’.

Some people choose to open a bank account in another country to invest overseas, for higher interest-earning potential or to access foreign banking services.

The process for opening an offshore bank account differs depending on the financial institution and country in which you’re opening the account.

Typically, you will need to provide identification such as a passport, a local bank statement and a signed declaration proving the source of the money being used to open your account. Usually, deposits into offshore accounts can be made by international money transfer.

Can I find my bank account number online?

Yes, you can find your bank account number by logging into your online banking and clicking on the relevant account.

Can Centrelink access your bank account?

Yes, Centrelink can access your bank account, but only if you give them a reason to. Centrelink uses data-matching software with other federal government agencies to help it crack down on welfare cheats.

This is why it’s important to give true and matching information to all government agencies.

For example, if you report to Centrelink your annual income is $25,000, but at tax time you report your income as $50,000 with the ATO, it’s likely you’ll be ‘red flagged’.

At this point, Centrelink can legally request that your bank hand over your personal bank account details, to review your finances.

In most cases, Centrelink does not have the authority to take money out of your account. You will usually be given written notice to repay the debt.

However, Centrelink can also reduce your benefits until you’ve paid back what you owe. In extreme cases, Centrelink can garnish your wages and assets (including money in your bank account) until your debt is repaid.

Can I link a bank account to Paypal?

Paypal is a safe and convenient way to pay online without the need to share your financial details. You can send and receive money or accept credit and debit cards as a seller using Paypal.

It’s easy to link your bank account to a Paypal account and start making transactions within minutes.

To start, you first need a Paypal account (it’s free to join). When setting up your Paypal account, you will be prompted to link a credit card or bank account (or both if you wish).

PayPal works without a balance; you can use Paypal to shop or send money when your balance is zero.

When your Paypal balance is zero, Paypal will ask you to choose your preferred payment method at the checkout.

This could be either your linked bank account or credit card. Your bank details can be updated if you change banks or credit cards.

How do I open a new bank account?

There are a number of ways to open a new bank account – online, over the phone or in the branch. The trick is to decide what type of bank account you want beforehand.

It might sound like a simple enough task, but there are literally hundreds of bank accounts to choose from. And each offer their own banking features and benefits.

A comparison site like RateCity can help you work out what bank account product matches your needs.

Once you’ve made up your mind what you want, it’s advisable to have the following information ready for the application process.

  • A couple of forms of identification (such as driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport)
  • Tax file number
  • Residential address, contact phone number and email (though email is not essential)

How do I open a bank account if I'm under 18?

The good news for savvy young folks like you wanting to take charge of your finances is that there are many bank accounts available for under-18s.

For bank accounts that require you to be 18 or older, you’ll have to rope in a parent or guardian to open the account for you.

Otherwise, you can apply by yourself online or at the branch of the bank, credit union or building society that has the account you would like to open. 

If applying online, you might be asked for a form of identification. For under-18s, this could be a Medicare card you’re listed on, your birth certificate and/or your current home address.

In most cases, you can verify your identity online (at the time of applying) or at the branch afterwards.

Can British expats still open bank accounts?

As a British expat, you can open an Australian bank account, and you can apply for an account the same ways an Aussie would. You can even open an account online from the UK prior to relocating.

If you’re overseas, the bank you choose to open an account with may call you to provide you with our new account details beforehand. You can then have your ID verified within a branch once you’ve arrived.

And if you’re already living down under, the following list outlines the types of information required by most banks when opening an Australian bank account.

  • Australian residential address
  • Tax file number (TFN) or a TFN exemption
  • Identification (this can be your passport)

Can debt collectors take money out of your bank account?

Many people find themselves struggling to cope with debt at one time or another. In these cases, a debt collector could contact you to demand payment for a debt, to explain the consequences of you failing to pay a debt, or to organise alternative payment arrangements.

If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you may be wondering what their rights are and whether they can take money out of your bank account.

Creditors cannot access money in your bank account unless a court order (also known as a ‘garnishee order’) is made to allow creditors to recover debt by taking money from your bank account or salary.

If this happens, the creditor can take money out of your bank account unless you pay the debt in full or make an alternative payment arrangement such as paying in instalments through the court.

Do you need a bank account to get a credit card?

To get a credit card, you need to show proof of income, which will almost certainly require you to have a bank account.

Can I have a PayPal account without a bank account?

You don’t need a bank account to send or receive money through PayPal. However, you do need a bank account if you want to withdraw money from your PayPal account.