Online scams at a glance
What are online scams?
Online scams are sophisticated messages, often using professional-looking brands and logos to look like they come from a business you already know. This can make it difficult at first sight to know what is real and what is fake. A scam message can be sent by email, SMS, dating sites, social networking sites, instant messaging or even through videophone communications like Skype or FaceTime (for example).
What to look out for
Scammers use different tactics to try to win your trust. They can find out a lot about you from your social media profiles before approaching you as a friend or potential romantic partner. Scammers often seem believable because they use information from your social media profile and seem to know a lot about you.
In winning you over, a scammer will work hard to get you to reveal more personal details about yourself – where you live, work, your family members, past relationships or financial circumstances. Once they have this information, they can use it to blackmail you into giving them money or steal your identity.
Some scams involve asking you for money upfront, to help with an ‘emergency’ or to pay for equipment or services to do a job. Scammers may even impersonate a friend or business you communicate with online, to try and convince you of their story.
Common online scams
To help keep you safe, we’ve included the following links that provide information on some common scam types, advice on what to look out for and what you can do to protect yourself:
- Dating and romance scams
- Fake charities
- Fake online shopping scams
- Investment scams
- Phishing (scams that imitate people or brands)
- Remote access scams
- Threat-based impersonation scams
- Unexpected money scams
It's a Scam: How the Scammers Trick Us
Professor David Lacey, Chair of Cyber Security at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and Professor Monica Whitty, cyber psychologist at the University of Melbourne, give some insights into how scammers can trick us:
If you think you have encountered a scam:
- Talk about your concerns with a friend, family member or colleague. This can help you do a quick sanity check and reframe your thinking, because some scams work by playing on your emotions.
- Check the scam’s legitimacy directly with the organisation it claims to be from, by using contact details sourced separately from the business’ official website (and not using any contact details from the message itself).
Top tips that often indicate it’s a scam:
- It asks you to click on a link to ‘confirm’ your details.
- It’s not addressed to you personally.
- There’s a sense of urgency about the message.
In searching for a business’s official website or other pages, have a look online for any reviews from other people that may confirm it’s a scam.
You can also create a ‘not sure’ folder in your mailbox, where you drag suspicious messages to go through at a later time, perhaps with the help of someone you trust. Remember some scams attempt to hijack your logical thinking by telling you to act urgently; reframe your thinking by reviewing these messages the day or week after you receive them.
If you think you’ve been scammed, don’t feel embarrassed or helpless. Head to our Get Help page for steps you can take quickly to protect yourself from further harm, report the scam, or seek assistance if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.