Scammers are increasingly concentrating their efforts on popular communications channels, including phone calls, text and instant messages via social media platforms, and email. For example, 860 million phishing emails are sent globally each day.1

While we have normalised this as a standard part of existing in a digital environment, how you should think about it is that scammers are only one step away from accessing your banking and personal details. They’ve already found a way for you to see or hear their offer, all they need is for you to believe it. 

These types of scams typically try to convince people to provide personal information such as bank account and credit card details and identity documents. Scammers may also ask a person to share their one-time security code, which a bank or financial institution sends them to verify a new device, transaction or other account activity. This information is then used to access bank accounts, create fake accounts in the victim’s name or simply attempt to steal their identity. 

The losses are mounting

Despite what many think about their own ability to spot scams, millions of dollars are still being lost every year. Staying alert and informed is key to stop this happening to you. 

Phone-based scams, for example, accounted for more than $63.6 million in losses between January and September 2021 (31 per cent of total scam losses), according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).2 You can read more about the different types of phone-based scams here, which include phishing and remote access scams.

“Despite what many think about their own ability to spot scams, millions of dollars are still being lost every year.”

Patterns to watch for

An unsolicited text or email with a link, offer or threat should immediately make you suspicious. Similarly, an unsolicited phone call with an offer or threat should raise a red flag. 

The angles the scammers use are often seasonal – for example, around Christmas, there are typically lots of scams leveraging an increase in parcel deliveries, falsely purporting to be from courier and postage companies. At tax time, scammers may change their tack to focus on tax return assistance or threats. 

These scammers tend to home in on their victims’ sense of belief, and they’re becoming much more sophisticated, fooling many people into believing they’re dealing with a verified business or government agency. One method helping scammers in this sense is ‘spoofing’, where an Australian or known number will be displayed when you receive a call or text, in an attempt to make it appear legitimate. You can learn more about this here

Case study: Impersonating the AFP

In 2021, scammers impersonated the Australian Federal Police (AFP) via channels including phone and email, falsely identifying themselves as federal agents.3

Their methods included telling victims they had identified suspicious activity linked to their bank accounts, then requesting personal details including a Medicare number, address and bank details. 

The scammers were also able to mimic an AFP number to disguise their identity, in an effort to appear legitimate and trusted.

Unfortunately some people fell victim to this scam, including one person who deposited $16,000 into a scammer’s bank account. 

This is just one example of how a scam can convince you, or a loved one, to part with funds and personal information. Vigilance is critical for you and the people around you.

An unsolicited text or email with a link, offer or threat should immediately make you suspicious. Similarly, an unsolicited phone call with an offer or threat should raise a red flag.

Think before you act

The key to avoiding these scams is not to engage: if in doubt, don’t act. 

If you have been scammed, or if you think you’ve been scammed, the first thing to do is to contact your bank – not the business or retailer you think may have scammed you – to secure your accounts.

The critical step is to stop the losses as soon as you can. For example, if you use a banking app, check whether you can use it to restrain your cards and accounts, and do so immediately. 

In cases like this, Macquarie’s Authenticator app can play a crucial role in protecting your funds. It allows you to monitor, verify and deny transactions and other account activity in real time.  

Ultimately, ‘buyer beware’ is the key take away. If you receive an offer that’s completely unsolicited, no response is the best response. 

Key take aways

  • Scammers are increasingly finding sophisticated ways to impersonate trusted people, companies and authorities. Independently verify who is contacting you before engaging or exchanging information. 

  • Scammers know what links you might be tempted to click on. Be careful with scams that might take advantage of a particular season or your regular patterns, such as those posing as a courier and sending you a tracking link for your parcel. 

  • Stop and think before you act – would you hand over money to a stranger you met in person? You wouldn’t, so the same logic applies to anyone you don’t know who is contacting you without solicitation.

Additional information

This information has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502 and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making any financial investment decision or a decision about whether to acquire a product, a person should obtain and review the offer documents relating to that product and also seek independent financial, legal and taxation advice. Lending criteria, fees and T&Cs apply. We make no guarantee concerning the accuracy of data and information contained on third party websites.