Unscrupulous scammers prey on young and elderly

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Beware of scammers on the phone

By Minister for Resources Guy Barnett

Every day mums and dads, the elderly and young Tasmanians are ripped off by unscrupulous scammers.

These criminals rip us off online, over the telephone, on numerous websites and even door-to-door.

National Scams Awareness Week was held recently to highlight the risks associated with scammers, particularly those who operate overseas and cannot be prosecuted.

The bottom line is that all Tasmanians need to be aware of the growing range of scams perpetrated every day of the year.

Last year, almost 33,000 reports of scams were received by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch.

Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Scammers may claim to be from the Government, or well-known businesses and worryingly, they may even use threats to pressure or scare you into giving them money or personal information.

Almost 85 per cent of reports submitted to Scamwatch identified that the scammer had contacted them over the phone. The remaining were contacted by email.

Typical scams include threats that you will receive a fine, you will be charged fees, your internet will be disconnected, the police or debt collectors will be sent to your home or even that you will be taken to court, arrested or deported.

Scammers may even go so far as to impersonate government officials and say that you have an outstanding tax debt or that there are problems with your government benefits, immigration papers or visa status to get your money.

This can include pretending to be from trusted businesses and organisations, including energy or telecommunications providers, Australia Post, banks and law enforcement agencies like the police.

These criminals may call and ask for remote access to your computer to fix a problem or they may email you fake invoices or fines, and threaten to cancel your service or charge you excessive penalty fees if you don’t pay them immediately.

If the scammer sends an email, it is likely to include an attachment or a link where you can download proof of the ‘bill’, ‘fine’ or ‘missed delivery details’ but opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.

Sadly, older people have been particularly vulnerable to these scams with people aged 65 and over submitting the most reports to Scamwatch in 2017.

Young people, those from non-English speaking backgrounds and people experiencing financial hardship have also been affected.

It is incredibly important that you protect yourself against these scammers.

When dealing with uninvited contacts from government agencies or trusted businesses always consider the possibility that it may be a scam.

Never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue, even if they claim to be from a well-known company like Telstra.

Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Hang up then check whether their story is real.

Don’t respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages asking for you to call someone back.

Never send money or give your bank account details, credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Remember that a government agency or trusted business will NEVER ask you to pay by unusual methods such as gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin.

The best advice to all Tasmanians is to “‘Stop and check: is this for real?”

For tips and information about these scams, where to get help or to report a scam, visit the Scamwatch website (www.scamwatch.gov.au/scamsweek2018) or contact Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Tasmania on 1300 654 499 or at http://www.cbos.tas.gov.au/home

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