Types of scams

A quick guide to the most common scams

You’ve probably been warned to watch out from scams – maybe even by us! But it can be hard to spot a scam, and it’s okay if you’re a bit confused.

Scams are basically a way of tricking people into handing over their money or personal information. Often, scammers pretend to be trusted people or legitimate businesses, and they make it their job to be very persuasive. And, to make things even harder, scams are constantly changing – using new technology, products, services and events to contact and persuade their victims.

While scams can take many forms, we’ve put together a list of the most common scams for you to look out for. Remember, it’s easier than you think to fall for a scam. If you do, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Just get in touch with us as quickly as possible so we can help.

Need some help?

If you’re worried that you may have been scammed, it’s important to act quickly.

Make sure to change all your important passwords, and get in touch with us as soon as you can to figure out how we can help.

Phishing scams

Phishing scams are when someone pretends to be a trusted person or organisation to trick you into providing personal information. They might send you an email or message that looks legitimate, using familiar logos and branding to pretend to be a trusted person or organisation – like a bank or a friend.

Be careful whenever you receive an unsolicited email, text or social media message from someone you don’t know, or a person or company that you do know but haven’t interacted with recently. In particular, look out for these red flags:

  • Creates a sense of urgency, using phrases like “you must act now” or “your account will be closed if you don’t respond”
  • Makes you feel fear or anxiety, saying things like “your account has been hacked” or “your personal information has been compromised”
  • Asks you to click on a link or open an attachment you don’t expect
  • Asks you to provide sensitive information such as your password or financial account details
  • Contains typos, grammatical errors, or other signs of poor language skills
  • The website or email address looks suspicious or unfamiliar
  • The URL of the link does not match the company or person it claims to be from
  • Uses generic greetings such as “Dear customer” or “Dear valued member”

If you receive a message that looks suspicious, avoid clicking any links or providing any personal information. Instead, contact the person or company directly using a known, legitimate email address or phone number (a quick google search should get you there).

Investment scams

Investment scams are when someone contacts you out of the blue with a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity. They will often pretend to be stockbrokers or financial advisers, using facts and figures to present an investment with little risk and a guaranteed payout.

Remember, if an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always be wary of unsolicited investment opportunities, and make sure you look out for these red flags before you consider any new investment:

  • An investment that promises high returns with little or no risk; legitimate investments always carry some level of risk
  • Vague details and little information about how money will be used and the potential risks/rewards
  • Pressure to act quickly on an investment or offers a “limited time discount”
  • Requests for personal information as “necessary for the investment”

If you receive a sudden investment opportunity, make sure that you protect yourself. Do thorough research into the opportunity, the company, and the individuals behind it. Check with regulatory authorities and do a google search to see if others have found the opportunity to be a scam. If you have any doubts, best to steer clear!

Remote access scams

A remote access scam is when someone tries to gain access to your computer or device through the internet. They might claim to work for a trusted organisation – like a bank or internet provider – and ask you to download an application to your device. This would allow them to access your device remotely, so they can steal sensitive information or pressure you into providing personal details.

It is unlikely that a legitimate organisation will contact you out of the blue and ask you to download an unknown application. If this happens to you, be careful and look out for these red flags:

  • Unsolicited emails or calls that may look legitimate but don’t feel quite right
  • Requests to install software or applications, even if the person asking seems trustworthy
  • Pop-up messages asking you to install something onto your device or warning you of a security issue

If you think a call or message is legitimate, look up the number of the organisation online and call them back with that number. You should also always look out for unusual activity on your device, such as unexpected changes or programs running without your permission. These could be signs that you’ve been affected by a remote access scam.

Romance scams

A romance scam is when someone pretends to be interested in a relationship with you in order to steal your money or personal information. They often create fake profiles and use stolen photos to pose as someone they’re not, spending weeks or even months gaining your trust before asking for gifts or money to help them out of a difficult situation.

It can be easy to get caught up in a romance scam – these people are very convincing! It’s important to be careful whenever you meet someone online. Be especially careful if they match any of these warning signs:

  • Claim to be from the same city or town as you, but are currently traveling or working abroad
  • Very eager to get to know you and start a relationship
  • Profess their love for you after just a few online conversations
  • Refuse to video chat or meet in person, even after you’ve been communicating with them for a long time
  • Claim to have a lot of money or a high-paying job, but are unable to provide any proof
  • Ask for personal information, such as your date of birth or home address
  • Ask you to set up a new email or bank account
  • Claim to be in a financial emergency and ask you for money to help get out of it

If someone you meet online doesn’t seem quite right, trust your instincts! Never give out personal information or transfer money to someone you don’t know. It’s also a good idea to do some online investigating to figure out if they are who they say they are before you get too involved.

Threat & penalty scams

This kind of scam, also known as extortion, is when someone tries to threaten or frighten you into sending money. They might claim you owe a fine or fee for something you did, threaten to harm you or your loved ones, or claim that you’re in legal trouble and need to pay money to avoid being arrested.

It’s not okay for anyone to threaten you in any way, and a legitimate organisation will never behave that way. If you’re ever in this kind of situation, try to remain calm and look out for these red flags:

  • Pretending to be a government official or law enforcement officer to gain a sense of authority
  • Claims that you have broken the law or committed some kind of crime that you will be punished for if you don’t pay
  • Demands that you pay immediately, or creates a sense of urgency
  • Refuses to provide proof or evidence of what you’ve done wrong
  • Tries to prevent you from verifying their claims
  • Demands that you pay in a specific way, such as sending a prepaid debit card or using a money transfer service

Threat and penalty scams can be very scary, but it’s important that you try to remain calm. Don’t act out of fear – instead, double check any of their claims and contact the relevant authorities through a number or email you find independent of the call or message you’ve received.

Online shopping scams

Online shopping scams are where someone poses as a seller or buyer online and tries to trick you into giving out your personal details or paying for items that you would never receive. These scammers will often set up fake websites with significantly lower prices or special, limited time offers and discounts.

It’s important to be careful whenever you’re shopping online. While there are many great deals out there, some of the greatest may not be true. Keep these warning signs in mind to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of:

  • Unsolicited offers or deals from companies or individuals you don’t know or don’t interact with often
  • Deals or offers that seem too good to be true
  • Requests personal or financial information without explaining how it will be used
  • Lack of contact information, such as phone number, email or physical address
  • Websites that look unprofessional or suspicious
  • Websites with spelling or grammar errors – especially in the URL
  • Pressure to make a purchase immediately, through limited time offers or fake scarcity

Legitimate brands won’t send out-of-the-blue offers or pressure you to make a purchase without thinking. Always take time to research anything you’re thinking of buying – and anyone you’re thinking of buying from – before making a decision.

Business impersonation scams

A business impersonation scam is when someone poses as a legitimate business in order to trick you into giving them money or personal information. They can impact clients and businesses of all sizes, and often involve fake emails and invoices that claim to be from a supplier or someone in your business.

These scams can be hard to recognise. The scammers often use fake websites, email addresses, and phone numbers to make their scam seem legitimate. To protect yourself and your business, keep an eye out for these red flags:

  • Unexpected deals, offers or invoices
  • Messages from an unknown or fake email address
  • Changes in email address, phone number or financial details of a supplier
  • Requests for your personal or financial information
  • Pressure to respond quickly or make payments immediately

If a supplier wants to change their contact or bank details, always make sure to confirm with them in person or on the phone. You can also check Scam Watch and Report Cyber if you’re worried about a business impersonation scam.

Inheritance scams

Inheritance scams are when someone poses as a long-lost relative or the lawyer of someone who has just died to trick you into providing money or personal information. They may claim that you’re entitled to a large inheritance, and ask you to provide personal information or money before they release the funds to you.

These types of scammers will often go to great lengths to persuade you. They may even send a variety of legitimate-looking legal documents for you to sign. Always be wary of unexpected offers of inheritance, and keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • Unexpected contact from a long-lost relative or lawyer of someone you’ve never heard of
  • Offers of a large sum of money or other valuable assets from a deceased person
  • Requests to pay a fee or provide personal information to claim an inheritance
  • Pressure to make a decision quickly or miss out on the inheritance
  • Requests to keep the offer secret or to not investigate further

If you’re ever contacted about an unexpected inheritance, chances are it’s a scam. Always take time to do research – talk to other family members or do some searching online. You can always contact relatives directly or check with the authorities.