Scam report numbers have ballooned to a massive $89 million lost to scams in Australia, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Dating and romance scams topped the list of financial losses and the ACCC reports a “huge” increase in identity theft numbers from scams. We look at the details of the ACCC’s report, as well as which scams have taken the most victims. Be scam-savvy in order to protect your finances as well as your identity. Identity theft through scams, or any means can lead to credit file misuse, so it is important to know how to look out for scams as a way of maintaining your clean credit rating in this day and age.
By Graham Doessel, Non-Legal Director MyCRA Lawyers www.mycralawyers.com.au.
The ABC News Report ‘Scams cost Australians $89 million in 2013, says Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’ says the ACCC figures show a 10 per cent spike in scam reports last year, as well as an alarming trend in phishing and identity theft.
Out of a total of 92,000 complaints received – losses amounted to $89 million. The ACCC’s Targeting Scams Report shows Australians lost $25 million to dating and romance scams with only 2,777 losses related to this type of scam.
According to reports the most complained about scam was advance fee-upfront payment scams, where consumers are typically asked to make a payment with their credit card to access a bogus refund, prize or other kind of reward. More on this report:
ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard says the figures are only a small snapshot of how much money people are losing to scams.
“We talk to other agencies, and work is being done so there will be a central repository of all reported scams in Australia but that’s not in place just yet,” she told the ABC.
“So we know it’s significantly more than the $89 million that was reported to us.”
…Ms Rickard says she is very concerned about the “huge increase” in phishing and personal identity theft.
“These can take all sorts of forms but usually it might be ‘fill in this survey and you could win a $50 voucher’ and you go to fill in the form and it will ask you for a range of private things with your name, age, address,” she said.
“It might ask for your credit card details so they can deposit winnings into it, Medicare numbers, passport numbers.
“What scammers do is they then use this information to impersonate you to open all sorts of accounts, run up debts in your name, drain your bank account.
“So people really need to learn the importance of that personal information and not give it out unless they’re absolutely clear about who they’re dealing with and it’s clear why that person will need that information.”
Identity theft including credit rating misuse can be pretty lucrative for fraudsters. In addition to your regular ‘scam’ fraudsters may also tack on a request for personal details, which signifies an attempt to misuse those details in the future, possibly for identity theft purposes. Requests for full names, dates of birth etc may leave victims vulnerable to identity theft.
Fraudsters may also ask these questions:
• With whom do you bank?
• For how long?
• What is your credit card number?
• What is your driver’s licence number?
If fraudsters have a person’s full name plus who they bank with, and what their driver’s licence number is they have the basic building blocks for an identity theft attempt. They can call the bank and have some kind of identity information on which to proceed with accessing bank accounts AND accessing further credit in your name.
Sometimes you may not know you have been a victim until after you apply for credit and are refused.
By that time, it is a struggle to recover your good name. For an identity theft victim to have a chance at removing bad credit history, you must prove you didn’t initiate the credit in the first place. This can be difficult if the scam happened months or years before.
What to do if you are a victim of a scam
1. Contact the Police immediately. Don’t be embarrassed or dismiss it because you don’t think the amount was significant enough. It is only through identity theft being reported that data gets collected and appropriate preventative measures eventually get put in place.
2. Contact your Bank. They should be able to flag your accounts so that no credit can be obtained in your name.
3. Contact the credit reporting agencies that hold your credit file. In Australia, this is Veda Advantage, Dun and Bradstreet and TASCOL (if in Tasmania). You should inform them that you may be at risk of identity theft and they may have a plan of action for protecting your credit file.
4. At this time, you should also order a copy of your credit report. If there are any inconsistencies on your credit report – change of address, strange credit enquiries and instances of credit you don’t believe you’ve access, then you may already be a victim – and should do all that’s possible to follow up on each account so as not to accrue defaults on your credit file that should not be there.
5. If you find you have defaults that shouldn’t be there, take steps to remove them. Although it seemed so easy for the fraudster to use your good name in the first place, you are now faced with proving the case of identity theft with copious amounts of documentary evidence in order to get the credit listings removed from your credit file.
If you have neither the time nor the knowledge of Australia’s credit reporting system and credit legislation that you may need to fight your case yourself, you can seek the help of a professional credit dispute firm.
Visit www.mycralawyers.com.au for more information on identity theft and bad credit or call us on 1300 667 218.
The latest information about scams and tips for consumers can be found at the ACCC’s ScamWatch website, and you can also subscribe to alerts there: www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Image: Stuart Miles/ www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net