Internet scams that seniors should be aware of

Last week was National Consumer Fraud week in Australia, a week dedicated to raising the public’s awareness of scams and how to avoid becoming the victim of one. This year the focus is online shopping, but there are a range of scams that you should be aware of.

This article aims to give you a general introduction to currently known internet scams and types of online scam scams. The ACCC has a website that they maintain and update with current scam information, called scam watch:

It is incredibly important to keep yourself up-to-date with the current scams as they are always changing. In 2012 in Australia alone, more than $93,423,030 was lost to internet scams and those are only the scams that were reported to the ACCC. Many people do not report that they have been scammed because they are embarrassed to admit it. Most people lose between $100-$500 to scammers, but many people lose thousands of dollars to scams.

Internet scams often work in a template format, the scammer may start with a basic concept or scam from any of the ones below and if it works they may build and elaborate on it. If you are a victim of a scam, or you feel like you are potentially the victim of a scam, call the ACCC and ask for help or information. There is no need to be embarrassed, the ACCC handles many online scams every day, and are well equipped to help. Remember, your call may save many other people from the same scam, as it can be recorded and investigate and reported on by the ACCC.

Advance upfront payment

These are the type of scams that can either come through by email, text message, fax or even phone, and usually involve either a message that you have inherited a large amount of money or that a fund from some business or another has found residual funds and you may be entitled to them. These kind of scams require you to give a small payment up front and in return the other person will arrange your access to you part of the inheritance, fund or money. Depending on the scam you may only lose the small cash advance that you have sent, or if you have given your personal details over to the scammer, you may lose more money, as the scammer may now have access to your personal and banking information.

Lesson: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Phising Scams

These are scams that “fish” for information. These scammers may send their scam thousands of people hoping that one will bite. A phishing scam will trick you into giving the scammer your personal information, they may do this by posing as your bank, even going as far as using the banks letter heads in their emails. Usually a phasing scam will direct you to a link that will prompt you to enter your details, especially your bank account details, often his link will be very similar to your banks URL. Once you enter these details, they will be sent to your scammer and not your bank.

Lesson: never trust an email from your bank or other institution that asks for personal information. If you think it is a genuine request, go to the homepage of the company by typing it in yourself in a new web browser window. Do not click on links in emails unless you know that you can trust the sender.

Online Shopping Scams

There are a range of ways that you can be scammed online: goods or services that you pay for may not arrive, or you may sell your goods and services online, yet never receive payment for services. The best way to avoid this is to always use reputable companies, always research the people who you are paying, read ratings and reviews of the sellers you buy from, and make sure they always accept payments in a secure manner.

Identity Theft

This is exactly as it sounds, it is where someone steals your identity and then uses your identity. This can include using your credit cards, taking out loans in your name or starting an illegal business in your name. Identity theft can occur in a range of ways: someone may steal your cards from your wallet, they may go dumpster diving and retrieve information from the rubbish such as letter that contain enough information about you so that they can create your identity, or they may call you and request information, while pretending to be from a trusted institution.

To avoid these scams, make sure you keep or destroy all important documents before throwing them in the bin. Do not give out personal information over the phone unless you were the one to call the organisation. And never give out personal documents over email.

Computer Scams

This is when someone from an official sounding company like Microsoft calls to let you know that there is a virus on your computer. They will tell you that they need payment details to fix the issue, or they may try and get you to type commands or click on things on your computer. There are no legitimate companies which offer this kind of outbound service, if someone asks you to take an action and you did not solicit their help, hang up and consider reporting the call to the ACCC.


There are a few health scams online. One is online pharmacies that offer cheap drugs, these places usually advertise to your email and use headings advertising things like viagra. While you may actually receive what you order, there is no telling what is in the drugs you have received and these can damage your health. There are legitimate online pharmacies, they require a prescription, they have correct spelling and they have contact details.

Pop-up boxes

This is where a pop up box (a small screen that appears on the screen you are looking at appears). These pop-up boxes may contain a scam. Often they may be legitimate advertising but mny times they are not and they may contain warnings that your computer has been blocked by the AFP or that your bank accounts have been frozen, ignore these these are not correct and are designed to scam you. It is safe to close all pop-up windows as they are usually just advertising or scams.

Money Transfer

Never agree to transfer money for anyone but close family and friends that ou know well. People may send emails or letters claiming that you will receive a percentage of money, if you give them your bank details, so that they can then transfer their money, never do this. If you are unsure, ask a trusted relative whether the person you are about to give money to is legitimate.

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