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Types of scams

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scams are attempts by criminals to purposefully and maliciously mislead you in order to get your money. Everyone is a potential target for scammers, who can trick you out of anything from a few dollars to many thousands.

Don't fall for it

With new scams regularly surfacing, it’s important to educate yourself on the most common types of scams so that you can recognise what to look out for. If you think you might have fallen victim to a scam, or see something that looks suspicious, visit Scamwatch to find out what you can do to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss.

Visit Scamwatch

Buying or selling scams

Classified ads

Sellers post classified ads for items such as pets, cars, bikes and rental properties. These ads look legitimate with detailed information, attractive photos and a great offer of a low price. 

If you contact the seller, they may claim to be travelling or say that they’ve moved overseas recently. They then may say that an agent will give you the goods once they get your payment. You pay them and get sent a professional-looking email receipt, but your goods never arrive and the seller disappears, with you having no way to contact them.

Overpayment

You're selling an item and a buyer says they’ve made a mistake and overpaid you e.g. by sending $1,000 instead of $100. 

They ask you to send them back the difference via a money transfer system such as Western Union, but their money never arrives, and you've lost the 'refund' that you sent them. 

Software upgrades

You’re called by someone claiming to be from a large computer or telecoms company like Telstra or Microsoft. They say your computer has a virus, perhaps because your broadband’s been hacked, and they offer you a free software upgrade. To be eligible for the upgrade, they ask for your credit card details. Scammers will then use these details to make purchases with your money. 

Job scams

You might see a professional-looking advertisment for a job as a ‘money transfer agent’. As an ‘employee’, you’re asked to use your own bank account to transfer money overseas from ‘sales’ in Australia – and you’re promised a percentage of the transfer commission. What you’ll actually be doing is transferring stolen money, most often to Eastern European countries.

Romance scams

A friend request on Facebook or a message on a dating site or app from someone you don’t know might be the start of a romance scam. The scammer uses a false identity to capture your interest, and builds an emotional connection over a period of time by revealing personal information, sending you gifts or promising to visit you. This is commonly known as catfishing.

Once they’ve gained your trust, they’ll ask you for money either directly or more subtly, for instance by telling you that they have a sick relative who needs the funds for medical treatment. The scammer might also ask for your bank or credit card details, claiming they want to move some money out of the country or want to share some with you. 

Other scams

Unexpected winnings

Someone contacts you (via phone, text, email, letter or social media message) to tell you that you have won an online competition or lottery draw. But before you can get your prize money, you’ll have to pay a fee to claim your prize. The prize money doesn’t exist and the funds you’ve sent are lost. 

Inheritance scams

Someone claiming to be a lawyer gets in touch with you, letting you know that you’re the last living relative of a wealthy person who’s passed away. You're entitled to inherit their fortune, but in order to recieve it you need to pay some legal fees. In reality there is no inheritance and the money you send goes straight to the scammers.

Learn more about scams from the Australian Federal Police

Learn more

Any advice does not take into account your personal needs and financial circumstances and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you and read the relevant Terms and Conditions, Product Disclosure Statement and Financial Services Guide (PDF 104kB) before acquiring any product.