Australians being scammed out of $90 million

Australians being scammed out of $90 million

Australians are being scammed out of millions each year with credit card fraud, phishing, identity theft, and even romance scams growing year-on-year.

However, individuals who want to protect their hard-earned cash can adopt a number of strategies to protect themselves.

Australians suffer serious financial loss

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released its annual scams activity report, noting that $90 million of financial losses were reported in 2013.

“Actual losses are likely to be much higher than what is reported to the ACCC — people report scams to a number of agencies, some don’t recognise that they have fallen for a scam, and unfortunately many others are too embarrassed to report their experience,” said Delia Rickard, ACCC Deputy Chair and Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce Chair.

Scams aren’t limited to credit card-related fraud only: Dating and romance scams surged to the top position for reported financial losses during 2013 ($25 million).

Be aware of existing scams

There are a number of scams that Australians succumb to. Being aware of what you could fall for is the first step in scam prevention.

Scammers continue to take advantage of Australians looking for love or companionship, although the proportion of individuals who respond to scam admirers’ advances is dropping — in 2011 the figure was 48 percent, which dipped to 46 percent in 2012 and 43 percent in 2013, according to the ACCC.

Identity theft and phishing scams increased markedly in 2013, with reported scams surging by 73 percent year-on-year. However, financial losses were low, indicating scammers focus on obtaining personal information to use for gain at a later date.

Phishing scams trick individuals into disclosing passwords and personal details, such as transaction or savings account numbers or tax file numbers, according to the federal government.

Computer prediction software scams are worth keeping an eye out for – associated losses reached $9.1 million in 2013, which was more than double the 2012 figure.

Check website credentials

Online shopping is incredibly popular, but are you protecting yourself when pulling out the plastic?

Always check the credentials of any e-commerce website you use — make sure there’s authorised payment software that’s secure, and always type the URL in yourself, rather than clicking on email links.

Be vigilant about your banking

The Australian Federal Police notes that sophisticated bank-implemented software tends to stonewall scammers. Accordingly, fraudulent individuals directly target customers.

Take note of the above scams and protect yourself by following the Australian Bankers’ Association’s advice:

  • Don’t post too much personal information on social networking sites
  • Set your social network profiles to private
  • Apply a lock function to your smartphone and tablet
  • Use official banking apps to complete transactions
  • Get in touch with your bank if you lose your smartphone or tablet
  • Install anti-virus software on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone
  • Don’t complete banking activities using unsecured wireless networks

Finally, here’s the most important tip to remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it’s possibly a scam!

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Learn more about credit cards

What should you do if your credit card is compromised?

Credit card fraud is a serious problem. If your credit card is compromised and you’re wondering what to do, here are a few precautionary steps to take.

Contact you credit provider – Get in touch will your credit card provider. If you feel your card has been compromised, you should be able to lock or block it.

Monitor your accounts – Keep an eye on your credit card accounts. Any unauthorised transactions could be a sign your credit card has been compromised.

Check your credit rating – It’s also important to check your credit rating, to ensure you’re not a victim of identity theft or some other financial mischief.

What should you do when you lose your credit card?

Losing your credit card is a serious situation, and could land you in financial trouble. Here is a simple guide detailing what to do when you lose your credit card.

Lock you card – Contact your provider and inform them about your lost credit card. From here lock, block or cancel your card.

Keep track of transactions – Look out for unauthorised credit card transactions. Most banks protect against fraudulent transactions.

Address recurring charges – If your card is linked to recurring charges (gym membership, rent, utilities), contact those businesses.

Check credit rate – To ensure you’re not the victim of identity theft, check your credit rating a month or two after you lose your credit card.

How do you apply for a credit card?

You can apply for a credit card online, over the phone or in person at the bank. Once you’ve compared the current credit card offers, the application process is quick and easy. Before you get your application started, you’ll need to gather your personal information like proof of ID, payslips and bank statements, proof of employment and details of your income, assets and liabilities. To be eligible for a credit card, you’ll need to be an Australian citizen over 18 and earn a minimum of $15,000 each year. Once you’ve applied for a credit card, you should get a response fairly instantly. If your credit card application has been approved, you should receive a welcome pack with your new credit card within 10-15 days.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

How easy is it to get a credit card?

For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.

Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.

Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.

Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.

How to make a credit card online

If you’re wondering about how to make a credit card online application, here are some steps to follow:

  • Test the market. Many credit card options are available online. Compare providers by fees, interest and perks to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Complete the application. Once you’ve selected a card, head to the provider’s website and complete the online credit card application form. Forms vary by providers.
  • Provide details. Most cards require you to meet age, residency, income and credit status condition, and you need to provide details like a bank account statement to prove this.
  • Review details. Ensure the information you’ve entered is correct.

Where can I get a credit card?

Looking to get your first credit card? You might be confused as to exactly where to go to apply for one. Here’s where to go when you are ready to put in that application.

The bank: Your bank is a great place to start, provided that you have a good banking history. Since you already have a financial history, you have more chance of your application being approved.

Credit card provider: Another option is to apply for a credit card directly from the issuer, such as Visa, Mastercard or Amex. This will most likely be an online application, so do your research and apply for a suitable card for your circumstances.

Major retailers: Coles, Woolworths, Myer and David Jones all have credit cards available. But watch out for the interest rate and annual fees – these cards are designed to help you spend more in store.

How to get cash with just a credit card number

Banks and merchants usually will not allow you to access cash without a physical card, because doing so would open up opportunities for fraudulent activities. Even most non-cash credit card transactions (such as shopping online) require you to know the expiry date and CVV on your credit card in addition to the card number.

However, some banks offer cardless cash for transaction accounts. Using a secure app installed on your mobile phone, you can log onto an ATM and withdraw the money you need. This could be a practical and secure solution if you don’t have a card and need cash.

How to increase your Bendigo Bank credit card limit?

As a Bendigo Bank credit cardholder, you can avail a minimum limit of $500, but if you use your card regularly, you may want to consider increasing it. To increase your Bendigo Bank credit card limit, you can contact the bank’s credit card team on 1300 236 344 and talk to the bank directly.

You can also apply for a credit card limit increase through online banking, by logging into Bendigo Bank web portal or through the app on your phone or tablet. Once you’ve successfully logged in, you'll want  to send a secure message to Bendigo Bank asking them to increase your credit card limit. 

If you cannot access the online portal or the app, you can also apply to increase your credit card limit through the online enquiry form. Simply add relevant information in the required fields and click ‘Submit’. Once you have completed the application, Bendigo Bank should verify your details and analyse your current financial standing. Based on this assessment, the bank will either accept your application to increase your credit card limit or deny it. 

Increase your credit card limit with Westpac

You can apply to increase your Westpac credit card credit limit at any time, and most credit card providers have made it really easy to do so. You can use your online banking portal, the credit card provider’s mobile app, or even the telephone. 

Applying online to increase your credit limit with Westpac is the easiest option if you’ve already activated Westpac Live Online Banking. All you need to do is fill in the required information and then hit ‘submit’ to apply for an increase in your credit card limit.

Most banks will ask for details of your financial situation at the time of applying for a credit increase. This is done to ensure your new limit meets the lender’s criteria. 

You can apply for increasing your credit limit in any of the following ways:

  1. Visiting your nearest Westpac branch
  2. Calling Westpac on 1300 651 089
  3. Logging in on Westpac Live Online Banking

Are there credit cards for students?

Yes, there are credit cards available with students in mind. These can help young Australians to build their credit report and learn crucial life skills around budgeting and managing personal finances.

How do credit cards work?

Think of credit cards as a short-term loan where you use the bank’s money to buy something up front and then pay for it later. Unlike a debit card which uses your own money to pay, a credit card essentially borrows the bank’s money to fund the purchase. When you apply for a credit card, the bank assesses your income and assigns you a credit limit based on what you can afford to pay back. At the end of each billing cycle, which is usually monthly, the bank will send you a statement showing the minimum amount you have to pay back, including any interest payable on the balance.

What is the lowest monthly repayment on my credit card?

As a rule of thumb, this tends to be around 2-3 per cent of the outstanding balance. You can choose how much you want to repay each billing period as long as it is higher than this minimum required amount.

How long does it take to get a credit card?

There are a few stages you need to go through to get a credit card; each one takes a different length of time.

Applying for the card online, over the phone or in person is the fastest step. This usually takes around 15 minutes, provided you have all of your documents handy.

After submitting your application, it usually takes between one to 10 business days for the lender to assess your eligibility. Some lenders offer instant approval, although you will need to send supporting documents before it is official.

Once your application has been approved, expect to wait between one to 14 days to receive your card in the mail. Keep in mind that delays can happen during busy periods, such as if the lender has launched a special deal.