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How to avoid texting scams

Which are worryingly on the rise in Australia…
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Australians are urged to be on high alert for dodgy texts and phone calls after reports of almost 100 people losing their life savings to scammers.

Since January 2023 show Australians have been conned out of more than $96 million according to statistics released by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Phone scams alone account for over $19 million lost.

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“Following recent mass data breaches, many Australians were encouraged to monitor their accounts for suspicious activity. Sadly, this has led to consumers acting on these scam calls and text messages out of fear that their accounts have been compromised,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe.

One of the most prevalent scams is the now notorious ‘Hi Mum’ text scam, in which fraudsters send a text message pretending to be their child.

Preying on the victim’s willingness to help their loved one, the messenger usually claims to have ‘forgotten their bank card’, ‘dropped their phone in the toilet’ or that they’re ‘locked out of their online banking system’ and ask the victim to send money. In 2022 it cost unsuspecting Aussies over $7 million in stolen funds.

Worryingly, consumers are now being warned to be alert for phone calls and texts that appear to be from their bank after alarming reports of Australians losing their life savings to a highly sophisticated impersonation scam.

woman on phone
(Credit: Supplied)

The scammers calling from numbers that appear to be based in Australia and pretending to be from either the victim’s bank stating their account has been compromised and asking for personal data.

“We are incredibly concerned about bank impersonation scams because they can be so convincing, they are very hard to detect,” Ms Lowe warned.

“What’s equally worrying about this particular scam, is that it is emptying every last cent out of victims’ savings accounts, with losses averaging $22,000 and more than 90 reports of losses between $40,000 and $800,000. This causes both financial and emotional devastation.”

“We know of a man who lost over $500,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a major bank’s security department, wanting to know if a payment had been authorised.”

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The ACCC urges people to never provide online banking passwords, one-time security codes, pins or tokens to anyone over the phone. Contact your bank or financial institution immediately if you think you have been scammed.

ACCC’s Scamwatch also advises careful consideration and checks before sending money to anybody, and to think twice before clicking on unsolicited links, even if they appear to come from a business or person you trust.

“It is critical to remember that no matter how legitimate the call or message seems, a bank won’t ask you to urgently transfer funds.”

To keep your accounts secure, they recommend using strong passwords, regularly updating security software, and enabling multi-factor authentication if possible.

For more, pick up the latest issue of New Idea!

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