Suspicious messaging

Scam and hoax websites and emails are designed to:

  • trick you into disclosing personal information such as bank account details, passwords or credit card numbers
  • con you into paying money for fake get-rich-quick offers, prizes or lottery wins, or fraudulent or poor quality goods.

Be suspicious of emails from people or businesses you don't know, particularly if they promise you money, good health or a solution to all your problems.

Be suspicious of unexpected emails from your bank or financial institution. Banks don't do business via email and never ask for confidential information via email. Scammers put a lot of time and money into making hoax emails and bogus websites look real. Don't be fooled.

Looks too good to be true? It probably is!


There are a huge range of scams on the internet, from promises of non-existent free products in return for clicking through to a website (which make advertising profits), to sophisticated targeted scams which can run for years and cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Common scams are described below, and more information can be found on Scamwatch.

Scam Delivery Characteristics
419 or 'Nigerian letter' advance fee

These messages are sent to thousands of people on the probability that some will believe the story and forward the advance fee.

Email (or letter) claiming to be from a solicitor, barrister, public official or some other authoritative person.
  • The writer is in another (usually under-developed) country.
  • They own a huge sum of money but need the help of a foreign partner (you) in order to access it.
  • Help them access the money and you will receive a share of it.
  • You 'wire' them a small advance fee for some contrived reason (for example, clearance fees or taxes).
Dating and romance

They attempt to enter into an online relationship with the victim in order to persuade them to forward money or divulge personal details.

  • Fake profiles on dating sites or responding to profiles with fake personas.
  • A friend request or message in social media or a communications service such as Skype.
  • Their profile pictures look professional and might have been copied from a website or magazine.
  • They attempt to become intimate quickly.
  • They may say they live close by, but are unable to arrange a meeting or suddenly have to travel overseas.
  • There are signs the correspondence might be copied or taken from a template, for example, wrong names, inconsistent or disjointed grammar.
  • Requests for money accompanied by elaborate scenarios and effusive language.

Generally, any offer that promises a large reward for a small fee is almost certainly a scam.

Steps to avoid online scams and hoaxes

Delete suspicious emails and leave websites that:

  • ask you to provide your banking details or personal information
  • promise you money
  • present hard luck or exotic stories telling you that you can share in hidden millions of dollars
  • offer jobs where you need no qualifications, but ask for a bank account for money transfers.


  • Never provide personal details via emails or links from emails. If you are unsure, double-check by phoning the company using the number in the phone book or their company website.
  • Never follow the links in spam emails; these could lead to downloading unwanted viruses or malware.
  • Ensure that you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer.
  • Install a firewall on your computer and make sure it is activated.

Where to get help

Issue Contact
Fraudulent use of your identity
  • your social networking service provider
  • your local police.
Harassment or bullying on a social networking site
Sexual exploitation or other criminal activity
  • your local police
  • Crimestoppers: 1800 333 000.
Report a scam
You are looking for more technical information to solve a problem
  • your device manufacturer's website
  • Whirlpool or other discussion forums
  • a professional IT service provider
Information on recent threats Sign up to the free Stay Smart Online Alert Service

A list of useful contacts can be found on our Contact us page.

Find out more: