Have you recently received a call that felt a little off, claiming to be from a government department like the Australian Tax Office, a major bank like ANZ, or well-known business like Amazon Prime?Or perhaps it was a text message about a package delivery you didn’t remember ordering, a prize or offer that sounds too good to be true, or payment request for a vaccine?

If you are struggling to tell the difference between a call, message or email from a legitimate business and a cleverly disguised scam, you’re not alone. Australians were scammed a record $211 million in 2021 - just from January to September alone - according to Scamwatch, a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

People aged 65 years and older have been the biggest victims.

It’s a growing concern, because Aussies have been scammed 89% more in 2021 so far, than in the same period the previous year, according to Scamwatch data.

A scam message pretending to be from Australia Post
A strange email address or international location details are signs of a scam message.

How do phone scams work?

Scammers call or text people, claiming to be from well-known businesses, parcel delivery services, or the government, to steal their personal information. Bogus voicemails and text messages direct unsuspecting people to software with hacking capabilities. Scammers can then use your personal information or phone number in other crimes, to scam more people.

“Scammers are pretending to be from companies such as Amazon or eBay and claiming large purchases have been made on the victim’s credit card,” warned Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard.

“When they pretend to help you process a refund, they actually gain remote access to your computer and steal your personal and banking details,” she said.

Other times, scammers might pretend to offer you money, a prize, or some other benefit; or they may claim that you are in trouble.

How to spot a scam

I’ve personally noticed an influx of scam phone calls lately, usually from a robot voice recorded message. It can be hard to tell just by the phone number, as scammers use technology to clone the number of an unsuspecting person to make it look like a local call when it’s often an international caller.

Sometimes the caller will say they are from a subscription service, like Amazon Prime and my account will be billed if I don’t disconnect the service. But I don’t have an Amazon Prime account, so I immediately know it’s a scam.

Other times it’s apparently the Australian Tax Office or the Australian Border Force telling me I could be arrested or fined if I don’t pay up. I know it’s bogus because I’ve never received any overdue bill notice or notice of any alleged illegal activity.

I’ve also had a few calls from Telstra about my internet service – which is a red flag, because I’m with a different internet provider. Once I’ve told them that I don’t have a Telstra internet account, they hang up on me. A legitimate customer service representative would never intentionally hang up on customers.

My co-worker Gabriel had a similar experience recently.

“I just had a phone scammer call me from the ‘ANZ security department’ to tell me that there had been fraudulent activity on my account,” he said.

“Easy enough for me, I don't have an ANZ account. But just to see where he was going with it, I played along. He suggested that I would need to start a screen sharing session [from my computer] so that we could log into my account and he could direct me to the fraudulent payment so that I could verify it. It seems ridiculous, why would that be necessary?”

Scammers are getting clever and they aren’t always as obvious to spot, especially with convincing phone calls, fake online stores and social media shopping scams.

With so many Australians online shopping in lockdown, scammers know that people are expecting deliveries. Some fake Amazon or DHL text messages ask for a ‘delivery fee’ to be paid, with a link to input your payment details. Don’t click these links as scammers can steal your banking info and contacts.

“Do not click on any links in messages that come to you out of the blue, and never provide any of your personal or banking details to someone you don’t personally know and trust,” Ms Rickard warned.

If you receive a call from a charity or not-for-profit organisation asking for donations, they shouldn’t ask for the three-digit CVV number on the back of your debit card. Legitimate charities are authorised to deduct funds without that security number. So, if they’re asking for this number, it’s probably a scam.

If you’re unsure if the charity is legitimate, but would still like to donate, you can do that directly and securely on their website. You can also check the organisation’s legitimacy by searching for them on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission register.

“It’s good to be sceptical. If you’re in doubt, we recommend asking hard questions about the transaction,” said Bare’s head of pre-paid, Alicia Avram.

Legitimate organisations should be happy to answer any questions you may have, whereas scammers often dodge questions or provide vague responses. They usually hang up if they suspect you’ve caught on.

How you can ensure Bare is not a scam

At Bare, we know our customers are wary about scams. And for good reason.

Bare and our partners are registered or licensed as per each state’s local guidelines and regulations for funeral providers. We pride ourselves on providing exceptional customer service and have almost 1000 genuine online reviews from customers who have used our services.

All of our pre-paid customers' funds are held in a regulated bond, in their name, with Lifeplan Australia Friendly Society. The funds will be held in your name until they're needed for the funeral. That's your money, we don't have access to those funds.

We understand that customer security is important, so we have built a secure online checkout and payment system into our website. Additionally, we have strict internal security measures to keep customer data secure. You can find out more by reading Bare’s privacy policy here.

7 tips on protecting yourself from scams

  1. Look for odd email addresses or usernames that don't look like official company profiles
  2. Spelling and grammar mistakes are signs of international scams
  3. Update your passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts
  4. If you receive a call about your account, from a company with which you don’t have dealings, it could be a scam. This might be a bank you don’t bank with, an internet provider you don’t use, or an online shopping service like Amazon Prime. Don’t give them any information or money. Just hang up.
  5. Before using an online shopping service or purchasing goods or services from an online trader, search for customer reviews. Not only will reviews help demonstrate if the business is legitimate or not, but reviews should also give you an indication of the quality of the product or service. A legitimate business should have online reviews if you Google their name. If you can’t find any, that’s a red flag.
  6. Be wary of sellers requesting unusual payment methods, such as a preloaded card like iTunes, an upfront payment via money order, electronic currency like Bitcoin, or bank transfer – especially an international funds transfer.
  7. If a call sounds suspicious, hang up and call the company's customer service line directly. They should have a log of all legitimate conversations and can confirm your account details.

If you have any questions about Bare’s legitimacy, where your money is being held, or our online checkout, our prepaid concierge team would be more than happy to answer any of your questions. Give our friendly team a call on 1800 202 901.