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Almost 1 in 3 Aussies have fallen victim to a financial scam – don’t let that be you this Christmas

Laine Gordon avatar
Laine Gordon
- 5 min read
Almost 1 in 3 Aussies have fallen victim to a financial scam – don’t let that be you this Christmas

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

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

Latest figures from the ACCC Scamwatch show scams cost Australians $526.3 million already this year (January to November inclusive).

Looking across the last 12 months (December 2021 to November 2022 inclusive) that’s $569.5 million – an increase of $266.7 million (88 per cent) from the same period a year ago.

  • Investment scams caused the greatest financial losses – $351.6M, however, phishing was the most common type of scam – 66,649 reports already in 2022.
  • People 65yrs+ reported the most scams of all age groups – 44,285 scams worth $111.8M.

RateCity.com.au research director, Sally Tindall, said: “Scammers don’t take holidays, so while it might be a great time to put our feet up and relax, people should stay on their toes when it comes to scams. 

“Whether it’s a text message, email or a social media post – think before you click,” she said.

“The post-Christmas sales can be a great time to nab a bargain but it’s also an opportune time for scammers to catch people out.

“When shopping online, question everything. Is it a website I recognise and trust? Is the payment option secure? Is the site asking for unnecessarily personal or financial details? If something looks suspicious, close the browser and walk away.

“Check your bank statements regularly and if you see a suspicious transaction, query it. Often it’s just a shop with a funny trading name, but it’s better to feel momentarily silly for questioning it than potentially being robbed of thousands of dollars.

“If someone contacts you out of the blue – your bank, a loved one on a number you don’t recognise, or a delivery company – be like Santa and check it twice. Nine times out of 10 it will be something that’s easily explained. It’s the tenth time when you’ll thank yourself for being hyper-vigilant.

“Keeping track of your credit score can also help you catch a scam. If your score goes down for no reason, get a copy of your credit file and see if there’s any suspicious activity on it. 

“If you do get hit by a scam or catch one before you fall victim, make sure you report it. This helps the authorities keep track of the latest stings and send out warnings to help protect others.

“The more people report scams, the less likely scammers are to succeed in future attacks,” she said.

How to protect yourself from financial scams this Christmas

  • When shopping online, question everything. Use retailers you know and trust, check the web address is spelt correctly and secure, don’t make payments via irregular, non-secure platforms, be on high alert when shopping via social media websites. 
  • Don’t recognise? Don’t click. People’s emails and text messages are awash with delivery notes at this time of year, which makes it an ideal opportunity for scammers to try their luck. Don’t click on delivery links from sources you don’t recognise and do not hand over any personal or financial details.
  • Be wary of numbers you don’t recognise – even if they claim to be from a loved one with a new phone. If it’s from a bank or another institution, hang up and call the number on their website. If it’s from a loved one, call their old number to triple check.
  • Check your credit score regularly. If you notice any unexpected changes to your score, it could be a red flag that something is wrong and should be investigated. Alternatively you can sign up to a credit score service that alerts you when your score has changed.
  • 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.
  • Use strong passwords – to make it harder for scammers to hack.
  • Review your privacy and security settings – if you use social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram, review your options for privacy. 
  • Check your card and bank statements regularly – if you notice any unusual purchases on your statement, report it to your bank. 

What to do if you fall victim to a scam?

  • Contact your bank immediately: They can potentially stop any pending transactions and put a freeze on your account. They will also help with advice on next steps. If your personal details have been accessed, call any other relevant institutions.
  • Review your security settings: If your computer has been hacked, update your security software and run a check.
  • Change your passwords: Depending on the type of hack, you may need to change your passwords. Use a strong password that a hacker cannot guess easily. 
  • Spread the word and be on high alert: Talking about scams can help prevent future attacks particularly among family and friends who might fall victim to follow up attacks.
  • If your identity has been stolen: Contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160, Australia’s not-for-profit identity and cyber support service.
This article was reviewed by Research Director Sally Tindall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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