Avoiding scams

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A scam is a trick developed by unscrupulous people to steal your money or personal information.

Scammers can use phone, email, text message and mail to contact people. Below is some information to help you identify and protect yourself from three of the most common scams.

Lottery scam

The scammers send you a genuine-looking letter, email, text message or social media post which tells you that you have won a prize. The prize might be money, a holiday, a smartphone or a shopping voucher. To claim the prize, they say you must first pay a tax or fee, or send them your bank account details.

Some of the warning signs of this scam include:

  • the prize is for a lottery or competition that you did not enter
  • you are asked to call a number or send an email with your personal details
  • you must send a fee or bank details to claim your prize
  • a post office (PO) box number, email address or mobile phone number is given as contact information (no street address is provided).

Rebate scam

Scammers pretend to be from the government, a bank or another well-known organisation and say you are owed money - but first you have to pay an administration or similar fee to 'reclaim' it. Some scammers also say your pension or allowance was underpaid, or utility bills were overpaid as a reason why you will receive a rebate.

A genuine bank, business or government department will never contact you saying you are owed money but need to pay to access it.

Romance scam

Scammers approach victims on legitimate dating websites. Once an interest is established, they move all contact to personal email, phone calls or instant messaging. Over time, the scammer builds an online relationship with the victim, going to great lengths to gain their trust and affection.

Eventually, the scammer will make up a story about needing money, often to do with illness or injury of a family member, or to pay for an investment. At this point, the victim has usually fallen for them and readily sends money, even when family or friends point out it is a scam. Once money has been sent by wire or funds transfer, it is virtually impossible to retrieve.

Protecting yourself - important points to remember about scams

  • if it looks too good to be true, it probably is
  • be very cautious of unsolicited emails, phone calls or letters saying you have unclaimed funds or are owed money
  • never send money or your bank details to claim a prize or a rebate
  • check whether you entered the lottery or prize draw and remember that legitimate lotteries will not ask you to pay a fee to collect winnings or prizes
  • never pay for anything by money order or wire transfer - always use a safer method such as a credit card or PayPal
  • beware of fake websites using legitimate looking logos from well-known banks or other organisations - if you are unsure, contact the bank or organisation directly to check
  • do not use links in an email to contact the business. Always find contact information using a search engine, the phone directory or another independent source
  • never send money to someone you have not met in person, even if you have spoken to or received gifts from them
  • listen to your family and friends if they have concerns about someone you met online
  • be wary if online dating profile pictures do not match the descriptions or look like they were taken from a magazine.

Taking action against scams

If you think you might have been scammed, contact us immediately to report the incident. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get your money back via your credit card provider or bank.

If you are not able to get your money back, it is still important that you report the incident, as the information may help us to stop others being scammed.

Learn more about how to avoid scams by watching our Stevie's Scam School videos for consumers and small businesses.