A scam is a trick to take your money directly or indirectly by getting your personal details. There are new, imaginative scams being hatched everyday. They even target low income earners like students and come in many forms including mail, e-mail, telephone and door-to-door.
Fake websites can easily be set up to look like the real thing. Giving your personal details to anyone should be handled with a large degree of caution. Even leaving your phone number to be called back by a sales rep can end in harassment or worse. Ask yourself why they can’t give you their direct number for you to call them. How many websites have you supplied with your name, address and date of birth in order to win a competition?
Some of the more recent scams have included lotteries, sweepstakes and competitions. Some are obviously fake, like the Nigerian millionaire dying scam, but some are very subtle, like the competition to win a new mobile phone or an iPad. Some scams involve government departments like the tax department asking you to confirm your tax file number so that you can claim your lost superannuation. Some involve people pretending to be from a large computer company offering to help you rid your computer of viruses.
Banks have very strict rules about how they identify you to speak to you. However, they do not seem to be so strict about contacting you and asking for your details. Ask who they are and call them back on the number you find yourself. Do not give any details, no matter how incidental, until you are sure of who they are.
Mobile phone ring tone offers are another potential scam. Once you sign in or subscribe, you may not be able to sign out. This will lead to huge phone bills.
Health and medical scams may offer products or services that will cure your health problems or offer a simple treatment. Often these cures and treatments do not work. The diet industry is littered with scammers.
Follow these golden rules to avoid being scammed:
- Don’t respond to offers, deals or requests for your personal details. Stop. Take time to independently check the request or offer.
- Never send money or give credit card, account or other personal details to anyone who makes unsolicited offers or requests for your information. Get a receipt for any money you do spend.
- Don’t rely on the glowing testimonials they provide: find solid evidence from independent sources (not those provided with the offer).
- Never respond to out of the blue requests for your personal details.
- Always type in the address of the website of a bank, business or authority you are interested in to ensure you are logging into the genuine website.
- Don’t open unsolicited emails.
- Never click on a link provided in an unsolicited email as it will probably lead to a fake website designed to trick you into providing personal details.
- Never use phone numbers provided with unsolicited requests or offers as it probably connects you to fakes who will try to trap you with lies.
- Don’t reply to unsolicited text messages from numbers you don’t recognise.
- Always look up phone numbers in an independent directory when you wish to check if a request or offer is genuine.
- Don’t dial a 0055 or 1900 number unless you are sure you know how much you will be charged.
- If you are scammed contact the SRC Legal Service or the NSW Fair Trading. You can also lodge a complaint online.
For more information, visit www.scamwatch.com.au