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2023 scam wrap-up

23 November 2023
• 5 minute read
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Even if you don’t pay attention to the news, you’re probably aware that scams are on the rise. In terms of numbers, a record $568m was lost to scams of one kind or another in 2022, with the latest figures suggesting that 2023 is shaping up to exceed that total.

In this article, we look at some of the most common types of scams in Australia today, new and emerging scams to be on the lookout for, what the future of scams and scam prevention might involve, and how best to protect yourself.

Most common scams in Australia in 2023

Online shopping scams

With more of us buying stuff off the web than ever before, it’s no surprise that online shopping scams are increasingly prevalent. Interestingly, it’s one of the few types of scam to affect people in the 25-to-44 age bracket more than older Australians . It’s also worth bearing in mind that October and November are the months in which most online shopping scams occur.

Three ways to protect yourself

  • Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true – they usually are.
  • Make sure you’re buying from a legit business by looking up its ABN.
  • Research the store by searching the business name followed by ‘scam’ or ‘review’.

Identity theft and phishing scams

This is when you receive an email or SMS pretending to be from a well-known company like your bank, mobile phone provider, or postal delivery service. The message typically contains a link or attachment, which, once clicked or opened, takes you to a form requesting your personal details. The best part of $25m was lost this way in 2022.

Three ways to protect yourself

  • Never provide sensitive information in response to an unsolicited request.
  • Always navigate to online banking yourself – don’t use email or SMS links.
  • If a message strikes you as in any way suspicious, delete it immediately.

Cryptocurrency and investment scams

An investment scam is when you are contacted by (or respond to an ad from) someone claiming to have an investment opportunity with guaranteed high returns. Although this should ring alarm bells by itself, you should be especially careful if the ‘opportunity’ involves cryptocurrency. While regular money lost to investment scams can sometimes be recovered, stolen crypto is much more difficult to trace.

Three ways to protect yourself

  • Never commit to investing on the spot, especially if someone is pressuring you.
  • Check if the person you’re dealing with is registered on the ASIC website.
  • Seek professional advice from a financial advisor who is registered with ASIC.

Social media and romance scams

With online dating and social media the main ways people meet in 2023, scammers use these platforms to win the trust of people looking for love before asking for financial help. There’s also a disturbing trend of scammers requesting intimate photos and/or videos which they then use to blackmail their victims.

Three ways to protect yourself

  • Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • The same applies to intimate photos and videos.
  • Never transfer money for someone else as you could be guilty of money laundering.

Notable scams in Australia in 2023

Optus compensation scam

The Optus outage of November 2023 was barely 24 hours old before scammers were targeting affected customers. Making contact via SMS to offer ‘compensation’, the scammers were in fact fishing (or rather, phishing) for personal details.

Employment scams

There has been a huge surge in this kind of scam in 2023, with more than $20m lost in the first nine months of the year compared to less than half that amount in the whole of 2022. Scammers usually make contact directly (WhatsApp is a popular method) pretending to be genuine recruiters offering ‘guaranteed income’ for little effort. After spending significant time winning their victims’ trust, they then ask for money upfront to cover ‘training’ costs.

Bank impersonation scams

2023 has seen a growing trend of scammers impersonating bank employees to trick people into revealing their account details. According to Scamwatch, scammers are using new technology to make their calls appear to come from the bank’s real phone number or by sending texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine bank messages.

Loyalty points program scams

Another phishing scam, this one involves scammers texting or emailing members of Qantas Frequent Flyer, Telstra and Coles loyalty programs to say their points are expiring. The message includes a link to a fake website, which prompts customers to log in and sometimes enter their credit card information. Customers who do so will at the least have their points stolen and may find their personal details used to commit identity theft, too.

What can we expect in 2024?

Emerging scam trends

Scammers are constantly coming up with new and more sophisticated ways to part innocent people from their hard-earned money.

Here are some emerging trends to look out for in the next year and beyond:

The fightback is ongoing

While this might all seem rather worrying, rest assured that the good guys aren’t taking it lying down! Put it this way, if scammers are making use of AI and other new technologies, you can be sure those very same technologies are being used to combat them.

To give just one example, the Australian Government will from next year introduce passkeys such as face or fingerprint recognition to access myGov accounts, making it much harder for scammers to gain access.

In the meantime, we humbly recommend changing your passwords regularly and setting up account notifications so you’re instantly alerted whenever your card is used.

We’re here to help

We take our customers’ security very seriously. For clever tips to protect yourself from scams, plus advice about what to do if you think you’ve fallen victim to one, check out our dedicated Scam Hub.

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.

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