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By Chris Dang

Navigating the minefield: a guide to avoiding financial scams

In an increasingly digital world, the frequency and sophistication of financial scams have escalated, posing a significant threat to unwary Australians.

The government projects that scams cost Australians $3.1 billion per year.

So let’s dissect the common tactics used by scammers and look at a few strategies to avoid falling prey to these schemes.

Financial Scam2

What is a scam?

Scamwatch explains that a scam is when somebody deceives you into providing personal or financial information so they can steal from you.

On the other hand, Scam Watch explains that a scam is not when somebody hacks your computer, device or account to steal from you or when something you buy turns out to be poor quality or if you pay for more something than it is worth.

The growing threat of financial scams

Financial scams have alarmingly become a part of the modern Australian landscape.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports that Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scams in 2022.

This is an 80 per cent increase in total losses recorded in 2021.

This staggering loss highlights not just the cunning of scammers but also their ability to adapt to changing technologies and exploit new vulnerabilities.

Scammers’ Modus Operandi

  1. Phishing Scams: These scams involve fraudsters impersonating legitimate institutions to extract personal and financial information.
    They commonly use emails or text messages that mimic the style and branding of banks, government agencies, or other trusted entities.
    The danger lies in their attention to detail, making these communications appear alarmingly legitimate.
  1. Investment and Property Scams: In the field of property, investment scams are particularly concerning. Scammers lure investors with promises of high returns, often promoting properties that are overvalued. They use complex financial terminology to appear knowledgeable and trustworthy, preying on both inexperienced and seasoned investors.
  1. Romance Scams: Leveraging emotional manipulation, these scams involve creating fake online personas to build romantic relationships. Once a bond is established, the scammer typically requests money for emergencies, travel, or other plausible reasons, leading to significant financial losses for the victim.
  1. Tech Support Scams: Here, scammers claim to be from well-known tech companies, alleging they've found issues with your computer or account. They might ask for remote access to your device or demand payment for fixing non-existent problems, leading to data theft or financial loss.

Strategies to combat financial scams

  1. Rigorous Source Verification: Always cross-check the legitimacy of any unexpected communication. This means contacting the organization through their official contact details, not those provided in the suspicious message.
  1. Continuous Education and Awareness: Regularly update yourself on the latest scamming techniques. Scammers constantly evolve their strategies, so staying informed is key to staying safe.
  1. Critical Assessment of Investment Opportunities: Be extremely cautious of investment offers that promise high returns with low risk, especially if they pressure you to act quickly. Conduct thorough research and consult independent financial advice before committing to any investment.
  1. Robust Personal Data Security: Utilize strong, unique passwords for all online accounts and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. Regular software updates are crucial for protecting against security breaches.
  1. Intuitive Decision-Making: Often, your instincts can signal when something isn't right. If you feel uneasy about a financial opportunity or request, it's better to err on the side of caution.

Scam Victim

Common signs of a scam

It can be hard to spot a scan, but there are some red flags to watch out for:

  1. It is an amazing opportunity to make or save money. Remember deals that are too good to be true usually are.
  2. Somebody you haven't met needs your help and money. Scammers try to use your good nature against you, telling, heartbreaking, or tragic stories to convince you to help them and give them money.
  3. Messages that contain links or attachments – never automatically click a link or attachment you receive in an email or text. Scammers. Try to catch you off the garden and send you to a scam website designed to steal your information or money.
  4. Pressure to make you feel you have to act quickly – scammers don’t want you to take your time, thinking things through.
  5. They ask you to pay in an unusual or specific way – if you asked to pay with preloaded debit cards, IQ cards, or virtual currency, like bitcoin, chances, are it a scam.
  6. They ask you to set up new accounts or pay IDs - if someone asks you to set up a new bank account or pay ID in order to pay them or be paid by them this is a clear sign you should be suspicious your bank will never ask you to open up new accounts to keep your money safe.

Property Scammers

The bottom line

The surge in financial scams in Australia is a pressing issue, but armed with the right knowledge and precautions, individuals can protect their assets.

Understanding the tactics used by scammers and maintaining a cautious approach in financial transactions are key steps in safeguarding your wealth.

In the journey of wealth creation and property investment, always remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Knowledge, vigilance, and a healthy dose of scepticism are your best defences in this ongoing battle against financial fraud.

About Chris Dang Chris Dang is an accountant by training and has worked in the Financial Planning industry for many years. Chris brings together property, accounting, and financial planning experience to help clients of Metropole Wealth Advisory create a holistic plan for their wealth.
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