Scamwatch: Scammers use social media to target renters

The year has seen a fresh start for fraudsters and scam artists, seeing another spike in COVID-19 scams and text-based cons.

ACM has compiled a list of current scams identified on sites such as scamwatch.gov.au, cyber.gov.au and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's website dedicated to informing people about fraudulent and dishonest activities.

If you have been the victim of a scam report it to scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam.

Rental scams

  • These scams target people seeking new rental accommodation by offering fake rental properties to convince people into handing over money or personal information, according to www.accc.gov.au.
  • The scammer will post advertisements on real estate or classified websites or target people who have posted on social media that they are looking for a room.
  • After the victim responds, the scammer will request an upfront deposit to secure the property or phish for personal information through a 'tenant application form', promising to provide the keys after the payment or information is provided.
  • The scammer may come up with excuses for further payments and the victim often only realises they have been scammed when the keys don't arrive and the scammer cuts off contact.
  • Some scammers will even impersonate real estate agents and organise fake inspections, victims will then arrive to discover the property doesn't exist or is currently occupied.
  • Anyone who suspects they are a victim of a rental scam should act quickly to reduce the risk of financial loss or other damages.
  • They should contact their bank as soon as possible and, if relevant, contact the platform on which they were scammed to inform them of the circumstances.

Call back scams

  • Text message 'call back' scams impersonating Paypal and Amazon are increasing, according to Scamwatch.
  • If you get a message like this, just ignore and delete it.
  • If you're unsure, use contact details from their official website.
  • Never call the phone number in the SMS.

myGov account suspension scam

  • If you've received a text message saying your myGov details are wrong, it could be a scam, according to Services Australia.
  • The text messages often claim to be myGov.
  • The text will state that account details are wrong and need to be updated. They may also threaten to suspend your account.
  • It may ask you to update your details via a link to avoid account suspension. Don't open the link.
  • myGov will send texts reminding you to go to appointments, letting you know we've paid you, confirming changes to your details, and letting you know you've got a new myGov Inbox message.
  • myGov will not include links in text messages, or threaten to suspend your account like this scam does.
  • To report the scam call (1800 941 126) or email (via the www.servicesaustralia.gov.au website) Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk straight away.

Beware fake Australia Post texts

Examples of real Australia Post text messages, indicated by the green tick, and fake messages, indicated by the red cross.

Examples of real Australia Post text messages, indicated by the green tick, and fake messages, indicated by the red cross.

  • Australia Post has reported receiving information from customers about fraudulent text messages claiming to be from Australia Post.
  • The test messages claim to be an update for a parcel delivery and prompts customers to click on a link to pay a delivery fee.
  • Once clicked, the link will lead to fake Australia Post website which is designed to steal your personal and financial information.
  • These scam messages are sent using 'AusPost' sender ID and, due to the way smart phones group these communications, the scam text would appear together with the legitimate thread of Australia Post messages.
  • Australia Post will never email, call or text you asking for personal or financial information or a payment.
  • Australia Post asks customers to report a suspicious email or text message that appears to be from Australia Post to scams@auspost.com.au and delete it immediately.
  • If you believe you have fallen victim to a scammer, contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160.

Clues for spotting a fake email

  • Scammers can easily fake an official-looking email, using the same logo and design as the real company.
  • Often your guard is down when you receive an email from a company you've dealt with before, such as Australia Post or an online shopping site you use.
  • If you're not expecting an email, always be alert to a fake before clicking on any links or opening any attachments.

Enjoy Easter but don't let scammers exploit your holiday cheer

Scammers will exploit people's holiday cheer and generosity to con them out of their hard-earned money.

According to Scamwatch, the top three scams to look out for are:

Fundraising activities

Easter is often a time for charitable fundraising, especially for children's charities. Scammers often pretend to work for well-known and well-regarded charity organisations. Scammers may approach people in the street, by knocking on the door, by telephoning or by sending spam emails.

Malicious software and viruses

Scammers use bogus emails designed to spread malicious software and viruses onto your computer. Usually this scam involves using catchy titles and headings to entice you to open the email, such as 'your friend has sent you an Easter card'.

Bogus holiday and accommodation scams

Easter is a time when many families take vacations. The scammer commonly offers heavily discounted holidays and/or accommodation rates through unsolicited emails and/or telephone calls. This scam usually involves full or significant up-front payments, commonly through cash money wire (which is untraceable).

How to avoid fake charity scams

  • If in doubt, find the name of the charity yourself and donate directly to them.
  • Don't rely on any phone number or website address given by the person who first called, visited or emailed you, because they could be impersonating a legitimate charity. Instead find the contact details of the charity through an internet search.
  • Never give out your personal or credit card or online account details unless you made the phone call.
  • If a collector makes a face-to-face approach, ask to see identification.

Weight loss scam

  • The Australian Digital Health Agency is warning consumers not to fall for a weight loss scam running via Facebook spruiking a miracle cure and using the My Health Record logo.
  • The ads suggest people can lose 45 kilograms with one teaspoon of the product, a so-called supplement.
  • Chief Clinical Adviser Dr Steve Hambleton said the scammers had misused the Agency's My Health Record logo in the ads.
  • "Government agencies don't lend their logos to companies and My Health Record is a trusted brand, hence our warning," he said.
  • There are reports that the ads run through new, small Facebook pages that are barebones but for the advertisement, registered with names like "Wealth" and Personal variety.
  • The ads apparently all link to similarly formatted websites, despite each being hosted on different domains.
  • None of the websites has a name or organisation listed as part of its registration records, but two claim to be registered from Iceland.

False billing scams return

  • False billing scams are doing the rounds again, according to Scamwatch.
  • The scam requests you or your business to pay fake invoices for renewals, advertising or supplies that you didn't order.
  • Scamwatch advises business owners to double check all payment requests and if a supplier's usual account details have changed, call them to confirm.
VULNERBALE: A higher demand for vehicles due to recent flooding in parts of Australia means scams involving vehicles sales are likely to appear once again. People are urged to show due diligence before handing money over.

VULNERBALE: A higher demand for vehicles due to recent flooding in parts of Australia means scams involving vehicles sales are likely to appear once again. People are urged to show due diligence before handing money over.

Vehicle scams expected to rise

  • Beware of vehicle scams on classified sites.
  • With recent flooding in QLD and parts of NSW, some people may be looking to offload flood-damaged vehicles or capitalise on people in urgent need of a vehicle.
  • The scams are operating on various online marketplaces and classified sites.
  • Scamwatch has also received more than 100 reports about someone using variations of the name "Ciara" on classified sites and online marketplaces.
  • Beware of excuses for why you can't view the car in person.
  • Visit scamwatch.gov.au for tips on spotting vehicle-related scams.
DOUBLE CHECK: Scammers are able to copy phone numbers and email addresses so they appear as a genuine contact, according to Scamwatch.

DOUBLE CHECK: Scammers are able to copy phone numbers and email addresses so they appear as a genuine contact, according to Scamwatch.

'Spoofing' scams and how to spot them

  • Scammers are able to copy phone numbers and email addresses so they appear as a genuine contact, according to Scamwatch.
  • This scam tactic is known as 'spoofing'.
  • If you've received an unexpected call or email asking for money or your personal details, call the relevant entity directly to confirm.

Phone scams targeting flood affected

  • Scamwatch is warning people who have been impacted by the recent floods to beware of scam phone calls from people posing as a service provider and claiming your phone or internet has been affected.
  • Never give a stranger remote access to your computer. If concerned, contact your service provider directly.
Example images of the Australia Post scam reported in March.

Example images of the Australia Post scam reported in March.

Australia Post scam

  • Fraudulent WhatsApp/SMS messages are sent by scammers targeting Gumtree sellers, asking them to click on a link to 'receive funds' for the listed item and courier delivery fees.
  • The link leads to a fake Australia Post website which is designed to steal debit or credit card details.
  • Never clink on a link in a message unless you can verify the sender.

Don't be scammed out of your donation

  • Scamwatch, financial and charitable institutions are urging people wishing to donate to flood or Ukraine charitable appeals to check and make sure their donation is going to a legitimate organisation.
  • Scammers often capitalise on a crisis and will try to take advantage of Australians' generosity and support by setting up fake donation sites, or even posing as insurers, businesses or government organisations offering help to the victims themselves.
  • Only donate if you can verify that a charity is legitimate by searching the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit's Commission register: acnc.gov.au/charity/programs/map.

Do your research, seek proof before buying pets online

  • It can be hard to say no to a cute puppy but don't rush in and fall for a scam. If you're looking to buy or adopt a new pet, make sure you meet them in person before putting any money down.
  • If you can't meet your new pet in person, take the time to reverse image search the photos used in the listing, and check with the relevant breeders association before sending any money.
  • Do your research and beware of typical scam tactics, like requests for extra money for unexpected additional costs.
It can be hard to say no to a cute puppy but don't rush in and fall for a scam.

It can be hard to say no to a cute puppy but don't rush in and fall for a scam.

Scam protection tip

  • No Australian government or law enforcement agency will ever request remote access to your devices. If a "government worker" calls or texts and claims there is a problem with your device and asks to access it remotely, just hang up or delete the message because it is a scam.
LOOK CLOSELY: According to Scamwatch.gov.au, emails like this may look convincing, but on second look there are signs of a scam. If in doubt, contact the provider directly. Picture: Scamwatch.gov.au

LOOK CLOSELY: According to Scamwatch.gov.au, emails like this may look convincing, but on second look there are signs of a scam. If in doubt, contact the provider directly. Picture: Scamwatch.gov.au

Bills, invoices and subscriptions: makes sure it's not a scam

  • Keeping track of subscription payments and bills can be tricky, however Scamwatch is urging people to be cautious about paying invoices that seem suspect.
  • The website suggests taking the time to double check unexpected requests for money or personal information.
  • Emails that claim a payment was unsuccessful may look convincing, but on second look there could be signs of a scam.
  • If in doubt, contact the provider directly.
  • Another tip for checking the email's validity includes looking at the the sender email address extremely carefully - in some cases the sender address may have a very slight difference to it or include a spelling mistake.

Online shopping red flags

  • Scamwatch is sharing red flags people should look out for when buying products online. The authority stated that scam websites have become sophisticated and difficult to spot, especially if it is impersonating a legitimate business.
  • Look out for products advertised at an unbelievably low price, or advertised to have amazing benefits or features that sound too good to be true, if a site's social media pages appear new and selling products at very low prices and limited information about delivery and other policies.
  • Also be wary if an online retailer does not provide adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution or contact details, or if the seller does not allow payment through a secure payment service such as PayPal or a credit card transaction.
Scamwatch has shared some red flags to look out for when shopping online. One of them is to be wary of heavily discounted products.

Scamwatch has shared some red flags to look out for when shopping online. One of them is to be wary of heavily discounted products.

Deny scammers remote access

  • Scamwatch has reported that Australians have lost almost $1 million in remote access scams since the start of the year.
  • Victims are being contacted by phone by a scammer impersonating tech support or fraud prevention, telling the person their device or account has been compromised and needs support to fix it.
  • The scammer ask to remotely access the victim's computer or phone, to download remote access software and to accept the scammer's request to access the device.
  • Once access is allowed, the scammer accesses the victim's banking or personal information, uses that information to impersonate the victim to commit identity theft or steal money.
  • Scamwatch advises that anyone posing as a service provider, bank or government body asking you to download software and give them access to your device is scamming you and to never give anyone remote access to your device.

Too good to be true job offers

  • Scamwatch is reminding the public of the old adage that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially in relation to jobs.
  • There have been more than 3400 reports made to Scamwatch about employment scams.
  • This scam sees a victim receive a job offer, often out of the blue, by text or email. The offer is generic but 'guarantees' the person will make fast or easy money. The victim might be asked to pay a fee or purchase a 'starter kit', or provide personal details in order to secure the role.
  • Scamwatch advises the public to beware of roles that promise big money for little effort, ask for a lot of personal information, or require you to purchase a 'starter kit' before you can start working.

Let your head lead your heart

  • In a dating and romance scam, scammers build trust over time before asking for money or gifts. They will often claim they need money to come and visit, or to pay for bills or debts. Even if you think you can trust them, don't send money to someone you have only met online. Scammers also love using gift cards as a payment method as it's easy for them to sell the cards on for cash. If someone asks for payment in gift cards it is a scam.

MyGov refund scam

  • Beware of a new refund scam now making the rounds, and any other emails promising money if you provide your personal details. An email claiming to be from MyGov states 'your refund is ready' and asks the recipient to complete the 'identity verification process'. This is not a legitimate email from MyGov. The from 'do not reply' email address is a giveaway that the email is a fake.

Beware rental fraud

  • Looking for a new home? Beware of private rental scammers on classifieds sites who claim to have a property available. Search the address to make sure it isn't listed elsewhere, and always view the property in person before sending any money or personal information.

Hack scam to look out for

  • Scammers can spoof (copy) your email address to make it look like they have accessed your device. If you get a message stating someone has accessed your device, has monitored your internet activity and provided 'proof' of that activity, this is a sextortion scam - you have not actually been hacked. If you receive an email like this report it to esafety.gov.au.

Hack scam to look out for

  • Scammers can spoof (copy) your email address to make it look like they have accessed your device. If you get a message stating someone has accessed your device, has monitored your internet activity and provided 'proof' of that activity, this is a sextortion scam - you have not actually been hacked. If you receive an email like this report it to esafety.gov.au.

Online shopping

  • When shopping online, beware of scammers who insist on third party payment or delivery services. They might claim to be a FIFO worker, defence personnel, or provide another excuse as to why they can't conduct the transaction in person. If in doubt, don't go ahead with the deal.

Educate yourself on scam types

  • Phishing scams are attempts to trick you into giving out your personal info. If you receive a request to 'verify your details' and provide your bank accounts, passwords or credit card info, something's phishy. Learn more about how to recognise a scam type at scamwatch.gov.au.

Scamwatch smells a RAT

  • Scamwatch has received reports about scams relating to rapid antigen tests (RATs). Avoid newly registered websites claiming to have supply and individuals re-selling tests. Only buy TGA approved RATs from known and trusted retailers or their online stores. In Australia, there are 22 TGA approved RAT tests. Information can be found at tga.gov.au.

Attempts to steal information

Scamwatch has received over 6415 scam reports related to the coronavirus with more than 9 million dollars in losses since the initial outbreak.

With vaccines and RATs in short supply in areas around Australia, some scam artists are taking the opportunity to ask for payment in exchange for early access to vaccines or tests.

Letters, emails and text messages impersonating government agencies and departments can try to trick you into opening links and sharing personal information. IMAGE: Scamwatch

Letters, emails and text messages impersonating government agencies and departments can try to trick you into opening links and sharing personal information. IMAGE: Scamwatch

Government impersonation

Many scams rely on getting you to click fraudulent links, and will impersonate government agencies or trustworthy groups to convince you to click the link. Fake texts that appear to be sent from a government agency can try and persuade you to give your personal information to fraudsters.

If it seems a government group wants you to check or input information on a website, access the website from a separate browser. Don't click the link sent, and never share personal or financial information over the phone. Just hang up.

Catfishing cons

Scam artists can and will often target emotional triggers such as loneliness or passion to get you to provide money, information or gifts.

Often through online dating websites but also seen on social media, fraudulent actors will pretend to be romantically interested and even begin a long-term relationship that can last for months before asking for money or information. In some scenarios, they'll even ask for intimate or revealing pictures that could be used as blackmail material.

Messages like this are designed to incite fear, so that you stop thinking straight.

Messages like this are designed to incite fear, so that you stop thinking straight.

'Sextortion' blackmail

On that note, sometimes scam artists will send you threatening text messages or emails threatening you with sharing intimate photos or videos with your friends, family or professional contacts.

These sorts of cons rely on the immediate fear of being embarrassed or shamed publicly to convince you to pay up, but they rarely have any actual material to threaten you with. They are trying to scare you, but that's all it is. Simply delete the message and don't engage.

And of course, don't put photos online that you would be uncomfortable with others seeing.

FLUBOT: Flubot scams will send fraudulent text messages with updates on parcel tracking, whether or not you're expecting anything. Hey, it'll get there when it gets there. PHOTO: File

FLUBOT: Flubot scams will send fraudulent text messages with updates on parcel tracking, whether or not you're expecting anything. Hey, it'll get there when it gets there. PHOTO: File

Flubot scams

Flubot scams are some of the most common attempts to steal information at the current time.

Australians are still receiving scam text messages about missed calls, voicemails, deliveries and photo uploads. The text messages ask you to tap on a link to download or access something. Doing so will download a specific type of malware to your device.

The most common version is preying on the rise in online shopping, offering updates on parcel tracking to convince you to click links sent through text messages. If you can't verify authenticity, don't click it.

Golden Rules

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It's always best to approach any mysterious messages with skepticism and never click links that you don't recognise.

Never give personal, revealing or financial information over the phone or to somebody you don't know and trust.

If in doubt regarding the authenticity, get help. Consult a trusted friend, or contact authorities to verify the information.

Finally, nobody actually wants to be paid in gift cards except scam artists. Government agencies will absolutely never ask you to pay fines or fees with a gift card, and anyone asking for payment in the form of a gift card should be treated with caution.

More information on types of scams, reporting options and updates are available at scamwatch.gov.au.

This story Scamwatch: Scammers use social media to target renters first appeared on Port Stephens Examiner.