Your browser is out of date. From Thu 28 April 2022, the Great Southern Bank website will not support your current browser, and you may have a degraded experience or be unable to connect. Update your browser to secure your online experience.


How to avoid online scams

20 December 2022
• 5 minute read
Share article on Facebook Tweet this article email this article to a friend

Cybersecurity has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. With large-scale data breaches at Optus, Medibank and MyDeal occurring within the last few months, many Australians are understandably anxious about how their personal information may be used if it falls into the wrong hands. Often, individuals can be targeted by scammers who have obtained enough information about them to initiate a convincing scam.

In October 2022 alone, just short of $50m was reported lost to scams of one kind or another. Text messaging is the most common way scammers make contact, with phone calls and email not too far behind.

And although, as you might imagine, less tech-savvy elderly people report more scams than anyone else, the data reveals that all age groups and genders are at significant risk.

In this guide, we’ll look at the most common types of scam doing the rounds, the warning signs to look out for, and how best to protect yourself.

Remote access scams

This is when a person is persuaded to grant a scammer remote access to their PC or mobile device via third-party software, usually as the result of an unsolicited phone call.

“Why would anyone do that?”, you may ask. Well, that’s because scammers are becoming increasingly good at impersonating representatives of trusted companies and organisations, including banks.

You should act with extreme caution if you receive an unsolicited phone call from:

  • Someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation (e.g., Telstra, NBN, ATO, Amazon, Facebook) warning you of hackers or a problem with your device.
  • Someone informing you that your bank account has been hacked.
  • Someone claiming that you are owed a refund for a service, particularly if it’s one you’ve never used.

While any of the above should be treated with suspicion, this is especially true if the person on the other end of the line is noticeably persistent or abusive.

Here’s what you should do if you receive a call like this:

  • Immediately hang up on the caller.
  • If you have granted remote access, turn off your PC or mobile device and disable your internet connection.
  • Contact the company in question to report the incident.

Pro tip: If you receive a call from someone you are unsure about, ask for their name, then hang up and call the company back on a publicly listed phone number and ask to speak to that person again.

Phishing scams

This is when you receive an email or message (either via SMS or another messaging service such as WhatsApp) pretending to be from a legitimate company like your bank, mobile phone provider, or postal delivery service. The message will usually contain a link or attachment, which, once clicked, will ask you to provide personal information such as your password or account details.

The first rule of avoiding phishing scams is, don’t click on links or attachments in unsolicited communications. The second rule (which you won’t need if you follow the first) is, never give up personal information in response to any such message.

Here are some ways to identify a potential phishing message:

  • It is received out of the blue.
  • You don’t have any dealings with the organisation it claims to come from.
  • It doesn’t address you by your proper name.
  • There are spelling errors and/or poor grammar.
  • It asks you to click on a link or attachment.
  • The link you are being asked to click is different to the legitimate website.
  • You feel pressured or intimidated.

Pro tip: Report suspicious messages to the ACCC and delete them immediately.

Investment scams

An investment scam is when you are contacted by someone claiming to be a broker (or representing a stockbroking company) with an opportunity to make a guaranteed return. They will typically request that you pay into an investment scheme and may even allow you to view your investment on a supposed “trading platform”.

Perhaps needless to say, you should exercise extreme caution before parting with any money in this way. Here are a few things you should do first:

  • Check if the person calling is registered on the ASIC website.
  • Check the official list of companies you should not deal with.
  • Seek professional advice from a financial advisor who is registered with ASIC.
  • Don’t let anyone pressure you into making investment decisions.
  • Never commit to investing on the spot.
  • Conduct your own due diligence.

Pro tip: Trust the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.

Dating and romance scams

Although this is only the tenth most reported type of scam (possibly due to embarrassment on the part of its victims), it was second only to investment scams in terms of the amount of money lost in 2022.

A dating or romance scam occurs when an unsuspecting individual is contacted online, usually via a dating website, messaging app or social media, by someone claiming to be interested in starting a relationship with them.

Their aim is to build the individual’s trust over a period of time (which can be months or even years) before requesting money. In some cases, a scammer will persuade their victim to send intimate photos which they will later use to blackmail them.

Here are some tell-tale signs of a dating/romance scam:

  • A person professing their love for you after a short period of time.
  • Your alleged paramour asking for financial assistance or help to get into Australia.
  • Communication is done via phone or message apps, never video or face-to-face.
  • They ask you to send intimate photos or videos.

If you think you’ve fallen for a dating/romance scam, you should:

  • Cease all communication with the other person immediately.
  • Report them to the online service provider you met them through.
  • If you have shared online banking passwords or account details, contact your bank immediately.

Pro tip: The old saying about something seeming too good to be true applies equally here.

If you think you’ve had your identity stolen…

You can get free help from IDCARE website and accessindividual support services to help you recover your credentials.

If your device has been hacked or infected with malware…

Change all your passwords and use anti-virus software to check for malware. If you’re not especially tech-savvy, it’s a good idea to employ the services of an IT professional.

If being scammed is causing you anxiety or stress…

There are several resources available to help you. Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support, while Beyond Blue has a wealth of information and advice about depression and anxiety.

Final thought

While scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, ensuring you follow the basic principles of cybersecurity outlined above will offer you a great deal of protection. Additionally, it’s definitely worth checking the government’s Scamwatch website regularly for details of the latest scams doing the rounds. Stay safe!

Important Information

Great Southern Bank, a business name of Credit Union Australia Ltd ABN 44 087 650 959, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence Number 238317. Conditions, fees and charges apply. This is general information and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Consider the appropriateness of the information, including the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) booklet, before acting on it. The Financial Claims Scheme may apply to this product; refer to the T&Cs for more information.

Related articles
Decluttering tips that will also make you money
2 minute read
How To Identify Phishing Email
3 minute read
Five tips for insuring a new car
Life emergencies you probably haven’t budgeted for
5 minute read
Can I get a loan for dental work?
3 minute read
Helping your adult kids become financially savvy
All Articles
Share article on Facebook Tweet this article email this article to a friend