Two favourites of Australian consumers – online shopping and free wifi – are contributing to a spike in financial and tax scams in recent years.
For example, in 2018 alone, Australians lost about $48 million to financial scammers who targeted popular online shopping destinations and exploited weaknesses in free wifi to grab sensitive personal data.
Further, the consumer watchdog’s Scamwatch has already received 689 reports of fake charity scams in 2018, with losses totalling more than $320,000. This is a jump up from 2017, during which $313,563 worth of losses were reported.
Often, the hook for a scammer is the offer of a product or service. According to the ATO, these are some tell-tale signs of a fraudulent scheme:
- Zero-risk claims
- Discouraging independent advice
- No product disclosure statement
- Recommendations to change private expenses into business expenses so they can be claimed against income
- Offering to inflate or artificially create deductions
- Suggesting arrangements that involve deferring or not declaring income
David Hillyard, acting commissioner for consumer protection, said earlier this year that the spike in losses from a range of scam types signals the crime is becoming a major issue in an increasingly connected society.
“Perpetrating scams is a highly profitable business for organised criminals who are becoming increasingly professional at fleecing money from their innocent victims as they constantly change their names and methods to keep ahead of consumer warnings,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Scammers masqueraded as the Tax Office, police, telcos, foreign embassies and banks in order to dupe their targets into paying money, revealing personal information or gaining access to computers and, ultimately, bank accounts,” he said.
“These fraudsters may also pretend to be crime prevention agencies and enlist the help of their targets to ‘catch a scammer’ by getting them to send money so that the scammer can be caught when they come to collect it.”