Need to know
- If you think you might have been scammed, break off contact with the scammer and contact your financial institution immediately
- You can get help dealing with the experience and lodge a report with various government agencies and other organisations
- If you've encountered a scam, it's important to report it, even if you haven't handed over any money or information
Lots of us are encountering scams. When we surveyed Australian consumers in July, 52% told us they believe they're being targeted by a scam every week and nine out of 10 said they had come across at least one suspected scam in the past year.
It's hardly surprising then, that Aussies have already lost almost $400 million to scams so far this year, and that's just according to reports received by the ACCC's Scamwatch.
Finding out you've been scammed can be nothing short of devastating. Scam victims have told us of the emotional toll the experience has taken on them and their families.
We've given lots of advice on how to spot scams in the past, and now we're providing guidance on what to do if you have lost money or personal information to a scammer, or even just had a near miss.
Scammers will often come up with a series of reasons for why you should continually give them money or personal information.
If you're suspicious about an interaction you're having with someone, whether it be over the phone or by text message or email, don't provide them with any money or information. If you've already done this, ignore any follow-up requests for more.
Scammers also often impersonate major companies, government agencies or even loved ones. If you're receiving suspicious or unusual communication from any of these, break off contact and independently verify what they're saying or asking you to do.
You can do this by contacting the person or organisation using details you've found yourself, perhaps by searching online.
You should also be careful not to follow any directions that might allow the person you're interacting with to take remote control of your device
When interacting with a suspected scammer, it's also important not to click on any links or use any phone numbers they've sent you. Scammers can set up fake websites with URLs that come close to matching trusted brands and these sites could be dangerous to your device.
You should also be careful not to follow any directions that might allow the person you're interacting with to take remote control of your device (they might ask you to download a particular app to facilitate this) and to ignore any requests from them to transfer money to a new bank account.
Once you've broken off contact with a scammer, you can block numbers that you're receiving texts or calls from, but be aware that these criminals have been known to regularly change the sender and caller IDs that they operate under.
Bank transfer was the most common way scam victims reported losing money last year.
If you've sent money to someone who you think is a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible to see if they can stop the payment.
Do the same thing if you've paid them using a credit or debit card or another payment platform – these tend to have more safeguards than bank transfers, with many offering purchase protection provisions.
Unfortunately, several scam victims have told us that they had a difficult time dealing with their bank after losing money to a scam.
If you're not happy with how your bank has responded to your situation, you can file a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) and speak to a financial counsellor.
Do banks refund money you lose to scams?
While you're likely to get your money back if it was taken out of your account without any action on your behalf, this isn't the case with bank transfers you've initiated yourself.
In some countries, such as the UK, banks are required to reimburse most individuals who have transferred money to scammers, but Australian banks aren't currently required to do this.
In some countries, such as the UK, banks are required to reimburse most individuals who have transferred money to scammers
The current advice from government regulators is still to contact your bank as soon as possible if you've transferred money to a scammer, in case they may be able to stop the transaction.
If you believe your bank has acted inappropriately during this process, or is responsible for your loss, you can get advice from a financial counsellor who's familiar with the rules governing financial institutions. See point 5 "Get support" for more information.
Some scams don't fleece you of funds straight away, but rather take your personal information, such as identity or online login details, with a view to using them later.
If you believe a scammer is holding your personal information, contact IDCare for advice on what to do next.
It's important to take steps to safeguard your personal information after you've been scammed.
IDCare is a nonprofit organisation that helps individuals who have been affected by identity theft or are worried about their cyber security.
It's a free service and their identity and cyber security case managers can provide you with advice tailored to your situation and work with you on a plan to secure your identity credentials.
"Our expert case managers listen to your story, in a non-judgemental way, " an IDCare spokesperson tells CHOICE. "As they are listening to what has happened, they're assessing the risk presented to you and developing a tailored plan of the steps you need to take to protect yourself."
IDCare regularly helps people in a range of situations – from those concerned after visiting a suspicious website or divulging information to a scammer over the phone, to people who have been caught up in a data breach, and even individuals who have had their wallet stolen or house broken into.
Get in touch with IDCare by filling out the help form on their website or by calling 1800 595 160 (available Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm AEST).
Report all scams (even if it's a near miss and you haven't lost any money or information) to the ACCC's Scamwatch.
"Reporting to Scamwatch helps us identify emerging scams so we can alert the community, issue relevant warnings and provide timely advice and guidance," an ACCC spokesperson explains.
Any report you submit to Scamwatch is also analysed by the National Anti-Scam Centre – an initiative that brings together experts from government, the private sector, law enforcement, and consumer groups to share up-to-date information on scams and disrupt and combat scams targeting Australians.
If you have lost money or personal information to an online scam, you can also lodge a report with ReportCyber, a portal run by the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Reports taken through here are passed onto police.
Depending on the type of scam you've encountered, you can also file reports with the relevant government agencies:
|Type of scam||Who to report it to|
|Financial and investment scams (Including those involving financial advice, financial products and insurance)||ASIC: Report misconduct|
|Cryptocurrency scams||ASIC: Report misconduct|
|myGov and Services Australia scams (Including those involving Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support)||Services Australia: Report scams|
|Tax scams||Australian Tax Office|
|Superannuation scams||ASIC: Report misconductAustralian Tax Office|
Fake shopping websites
If you've fallen foul of a fake shopping website, post about your experience on social media or on forums like Google Reviews or Trustpilot.
If the site is impersonating an established retailer, it's a good idea to let the brand and its customers know. An easy way to do this is by posting a comment on one of its official social media pages or by contacting them directly.
If a scam has put you in a difficult financial position, you can speak to a financial counsellor for free by contacting the National Debt Helpline (NDH) on 1800 007 007. You can also live chat with a counsellor via the NDH's website.
Speak to a financial counsellor if you're stuggling financially after being scammed.
Claude Von Arx is a financial counsellor at the Consumer Action Law Centre who regularly speaks with scam victims and says financial counsellors can also advocate on your behalf and make sure you've been treated fairly by your financial institution.
"We ask a range of questions, around the nature of the scam, to work out what the response was from [a victim's] financial institution," he explains. "If we feel that a bank has not acted appropriately … or didn't give out sufficient warnings and try to protect their clients, we will make a claim on the bank themselves."
"We will try and get the client's money back, even though the original funds are probably long gone," he adds. "We go to the bank and make them financially accountable for not protecting their clients, where we deem it apparent."
If you're struggling with money, it's also worth knowing that you may be able to get No Interest Loans (NILs) to help you deal with expenses.
Nonprofit Good Shepherd has more info on these, including eligibility criteria and where you can find a provider.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.