New measures are helping Australians avoid scams

Article published 16 April 2024

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The Government, regulators, community groups and the private sector are all working to help people avoid scams, but vigilance is still essential.

The latest quarterly report from the National Anti-Scam Centre – a recently established branch of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) – has found that Australians are losing less money to scams. The report shows that in the period from October to December 2023, Australians lost 43% less than the same period in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Government’s ‘Identity Verification Service Credential Prevention Register’, established after the 2022 Optus data breach, has prevented over 300,000 fraudulent attempts to use stolen identity credentials for further scams and illegal activities. The register works by tracking stolen identity credentials and preventing these credentials from being used in future fraudulent activities.

Scams losses have dropped, but remain high

The amount of money lost to scams has dropped compared to the peak in 2022, but it remains much higher than previous years. In some areas, such as social media, both the number of reported scams and the money lost to scams has continued to increase. While the Government, regulators, community groups and the private sector all work to prevent scams and spread awareness, scammers themselves are constantly improving and changing their approach, so new scams are emerging all the time.

Different scams impact different groups

For older Australians, investment scams had the biggest impact in the period covered by the National Anti-Scam Centre’s report. These scams often take the form of Facebook ads that use technology to create fake videos of celebrities or well-known business figures. These fake video endorsements trick people into believing that these scams are legitimate investment opportunities. Mining magnate Andrew Forrest is currently suing Facebook’s parent company over similar ads on the platform that synthesise his voice and likeness to promote shady cryptocurrency schemes.

Common scam tactics

The report also found that text messages, emails and phone calls were the three most common methods used by scammers to target older Australians. While the types of scams deployed through these methods can vary, a common strategy relies on the scammer impersonating a family member or loved one. The scammer may contact their target pretending to be a loved one in some distress (such as having lost their phone or having been in a traffic accident). They will then exploit the apparent urgency of the situation to trick their target into sending money or providing valuable personal information.

Similar scams rely on scammers impersonating trusted organisations such as banks or Government agencies, then using the pretense of a failed payment or overdue bill to scam people. CHOICE has compiled advice on how to avoid scams like these, and report them when they appear.

Staying safe

Different scams require different strategies to avoid them, but there are some common things that you can do to stay safe. If you receive an email, phone call, text message or message on social media that feels unexpected or off in some way, then it’s a good idea to assume that someone might be trying to target you. Scammers rely on urgency, panic and stressful situations to exploit people’s vulnerability. Staying calm can often be the best way to spot important details and avoid scams.


Check to make sure that website links and email addresses are legitimate. Most reputable organisations will not ask you to follow a link in an email or text message and scammers often use misspelled information in links and email addresses to try and look like legitimate sources. However, scammers are now able to make text messages appear under older, legitimate text messages on your phone to make it seem like these new messages are coming from the same place. This can make it much harder to spot a scam at first glance. If you are in doubt about whether an organisation is trying to contact you, search for their information online yourself, or get someone you trust to help you, then contact them through the phone number or email address on their website.

What to do if you get targeted

  • Contact your bank or card provider immediately to see if they can stop or recover the payment; you can also contact the financial ombudsman if you feel that their response is not good enough.
  • Change your passwords, especially those you use for banking, government services and online shopping.
  • Run an anti-virus scan.
  • If you have lost money you can make a report to the police in person or through ReportCyber.
  • You can also report to ACCC SCAMWATCH – they cannot help you recover money or find a scammer directly, but they can use your information to shut the scammer down.
  • Talk to IDCARE (1800 595 160), Australia’s national identity and cyber support service. They can connect you with a specialist identity and cyber security counsellor.
  • You can also report the scam to a retailer if their name was used to trick you or leave a review online to warn others.
  • Contact Service NSW if you need to replace NSW government documents. If you are outside of NSW, contact the government department that issues driver licences in your states.
  • Seek out support if you need it, such as a financial counsellor or if you just need to talk you can call a crisis line such as Lifeline, who can be contacted at 13 11 14 or through their website.

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