Scammers use dishonest or illegal activities like phishing, fraudulent behaviour and threats to steal personal or financial information.
AFCA sees a wide variety of complaints involving scams including investment, romance, invoice hacking, telecommunication, and Australian Government agency scams (such as those purporting to involve the police or the tax office).
If you share or store personal information like credit card details or bank account passcodes online, you could be at risk of a scam.
This page outlines what scammers can do with your personal information, how you can avoid a scam, and what to do if you think you are a victim.
For more information, you can visit Scamwatch or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Why scammers want your personal information
Your personal and financial information is valuable. Scammers can use this information to steal your identity for personal or financial gain.
With your personal information, scammers will try to:
- access your bank account and withdraw money
- set up new bank accounts in your name
- take out loans or sign up to credit cards in your name
- sign up to phone plans or other services
- purchase expensive goods in your name
- steal funds from your superannuation
- access your government online services such as MyGov
- access your email to find more information or impersonate you
- access your social media accounts to impersonate you – scamming your family and friends.
How to avoid a scam
Scammers target people of all backgrounds and ages. Always be alert to scams, especially online, and try keep personal information private. Scammers often use a sense of urgency to put pressure on people to send money and will often try to build trust with you over time.
Simple ways to protect your personal information and avoid scams:
- If you are contacted by someone purporting to be from your bank, telecommunications company or a government agency, before giving access to any of your personal details, contact the relevant body to check it was them who contacted you.
- If someone is putting pressure on you to send funds or a deal seems too good to be true, you should pause; take time to review the suggestion and maybe discuss it with a trusted family member, friend or adviser.
- Never send money or give credit card details to someone you don’t know, or a business you do not trust.
- Always check a business is legitimate before sending funds or personal details to it – such as by searching its name on the ACCC’s Scamwatch website or ASIC’s MoneySmart website.
- Never send online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Lock your mailbox and use passwords for email.
- Shred sensitive documents and store any digital versions using security software.
- Do not forward or open strange or unreliable emails or website links.
- Check your credit report at least once a year. You can use a reputable credit reference bureau to help you monitor and catch unauthorised activity.
- Always report a scam to help others from falling victim.
- If you have been making regular payments to an account and you get an email telling you the account details have changed, always call the recipient of the payment to check they made the change.
What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam
If you’ve lost money, given personal information to someone you don’t know, or think you have been the victim of a scam, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from further loss:
- If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details with someone you don’t know, contact your financial firm or bank immediately.
- If the scam occurred on social media, report it to the social media platform.
- If you’ve given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE – Australia and New Zealand’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service.
- Ask for a credit report from a reputable credit reference bureau.
- Take the time to warn your friends and family about scams and do not share or forward unreliable emails or website links.
- Report a scam to Scamwatch.
When to contact AFCA
If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details with someone you don’t know, you should contact your bank or financial firm immediately.
If you are not satisfied with their response, you can lodge a complaint with AFCA.
AFCA is a non-government organisation providing free, fair and independent help with financial disputes. Our role is to assist consumers and small businesses to reach agreements with financial firms about how to resolve their complaints.