Every week Everything Geraldton are inundated with people being subject to several different scams.
More recently we’ve had these sent into us:
"I just got this email this morning, takes me to a page that looks like the Apple site but with credit card entry needed for verification of Apple ID, please delete the email if you get it because it is phishing for your credit card details. Please let your friends and family know of new scam." -Eeling
"Just a heads up, there is a scam targeting Facebook users. They friend request you then say you have won a Facebook lottery, they then ask for personal details. I’ve had two tonight and after I questioned them they disappear. Do not give out your personal info. Please be careful, it is a scam." -Daniel
"This email scam is still going around, looks legit. The ATO only refund by cheque or to a nominated bank account - not to a credit card like it says in the e-mail. Also, they made a spelling error - durring - instead of during." -Annette
"Just wondering if you could put a warning out about the "Windows Support" scam that's going on at the moment. Almost everyone I know (including me) have received calls from them. The more people that know about it the better, and people need to warn their friends/family too! My dad just got scammed." - Lauren
Just last week, a 22-year-old local university student was subject to a PayPal Scam where she lost over $600 and two weeks ago a local family lost over $700 when they bought Katy Perry Tickets on Gumtree, but after a simple Google of the seller’s name, they had found the person was a serial scammer.
Everything Geraldton spoke to Danni Bloomfield, Senior Regional Officer, Consumer Protection, at the Department of Commerce, and she said it is scary as to how scammers have developed and how authentic and real scams are becoming.
“When I started in this role more than 7 years ago, scams seemed to be very easily identified because scammers hadn’t fully grasped the concept,” she said.
“Since then - scammers’ skills have developed in leaps and bounds and they present something that is so authentic, almost identical to something they would receive from their bank, telephone company etc.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that almost 6 million people are exposed to scams and frauds during any given year, with over 800,000 falling victim in some way. The financial losses are of major concern – with almost $1 billion in losses – a good part of which will go out of the Australian economy.
“It is a multi million dollar industry for scammers,” Miss Bloomfield said.
“It is lucrative living for these scammers and people really need to become more savvy.
“If you’re unsure, ring the Department of Commerce. We are trained to identify scams and we can help you even if you are unsure on something.”
Miss Bloomfield said it was essential for people to look out for their neighbours, elderly family and friends, and vulnerable victims.
"We find elderly people sometimes don't really understand the full concept of scams and they are so desperate to leave their family something and are also worried about funeral costs," she said.
"If you see something that doesn't look right, you must report it to us or the police."
Romance scams are also on the rise with an article from the West Australian earlier this year stating that stats had gone through the roof.
"West Australians looking for love lost almost $25,000 a day to romance frauds last year, with losses rising a staggering 900 per cent from 2012," the article said.
"The latest figures from Consumer Protection reveal 187 victims were scammed out of $8.97 million last year."
Ms Bloomfield also reiterated the fact that romance scams were heavily prevalent.
"Romance scams can have an absolutely tragic outcome and devastating consequences," Miss Bloomfield said.
"And sadly the effects not just on romance scams but on all scams, spread far and wide. It effects more people than just the victim."
Anyone who suspects they have been contacted by a scammer or suspects they are a victim of a scam can contact the Department of Commerce on 0899 209800 or call in and see them at Shop 3/50-52 Durlacher Street, Geraldton.
Here are some tips to help ensure you aren't a victim of a scam:
1) Think twice – if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
2) Find out what other shoppers say – make sure the person that you are dealing with, and their offer, is the real deal.
3) Protect your identity – your personal details are private and invaluable; keep them that way and away from scammers.
4) Keep your computer secure – Install software that protects your computer from viruses and unwanted programs and make sure it is kept up-to-date.
5) Only pay via secure payment methods – look for a web address starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol. Never use a wire transfer service to send money to anyone you do not know and trust, and do not share your financial details with anyone.
Here are some general tips for computer, tablet or smartphone users to help you avoid online traps.
- Make sure you have an up to date firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and back up important data regularly.
- Check web addresses are secure (look for https and the closed padlock symbol).
- Make sure sites are not fake versions – type the known URL in to your browser.
- Stop and think before clicking links or opening attachments.
- Do not respond to emails asking you to update secure personal information or to stop accounts from being deactivated etc. The link is likely to activate malware (malicious software) so that your identity details can be stolen.
- Change all passwords regularly using strong letter and number combinations and different passwords for different uses.
- Always log out after each online banking session.
- Take care when transacting online – use safe payment methods e.g. secure systems like Paypal and avoid wire (money) transfer systems which are virtually untraceable.
If you buy online, here are some things to take into account:
- Be wary if the website looks suspicious or unprofessional or makes unrealistic promises. Bargains which look too good to be true often are.
- Know what you are buying. Read the description of the product carefully-check the size, colour, value and safety of the product.
- Read all the fine print. This includes refund and complaints handling policies.
- Check the currency, postage and handling and other charges - there may be extra charges you aren't aware of. Only pay via a secure web page-one with a valid digital certificate.
- Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct debit, as these can be open to abuse. Never send your bank or credit card details via email.
- Always print and keep a copy of the transaction. Keep records of any emails to and from the seller.
- Always conduct transactions within the auction website. Avoid private contact or payment directly with buyers or sellers-scammers will often use this ploy to 'offer a better deal.
For more tips (protecting online accounts, selling online etc.) and extra info check out: www.staysmartonline.gov.au/awareness_week
And for more information on scams you can also check out the Department of Commerce's ScamNet.