In 2018, Australians made more than 177,000 scam reports to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch agency, and reported a total loss of more than $107 million.

NAB has partnered with the Scams Awareness Network to support ‘National Scams Awareness Week’ which runs from 12 - 16 August 2019, and helps bring awareness to scams. With countless new scams emerging, scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and people often believe they would never fall victim.

This year, we are asking Australians to test whether they can spot a scam.

What to look for

It’s easier to spot a scam if you know what to look for. Be careful if:

  • someone you don’t know contacts you out of the blue
  • someone asks you to pay for something, or give them money by unusual payment methods such as gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrencies
  • someone you’ve never met in person asks for money
  • something sounds too good to be true, like an online shopping deal or you’ve won a competition, have unclaimed inheritance, or been invited to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme
  • someone asks you to pay for something in advance, especially by an unusual payment method
  • someone asks you for personal information, like your bank details or passwords, or access to your computer
  • someone pressures you into buying something or deciding quickly.

Read recent scam case studies

Romance scams

Ronny, a 72-year-old widow, decided to sign up to an online dating site in the hope of finding a companion. After two days, Ronny received a message from a woman called Elaine, a 40-year-old American doctor working in northern Africa. Ronny was flattered that a beautiful doctor would be interested in him, and they were soon speaking daily.

After a few months, Elaine confirmed that her posting in Africa was ending, and that she wanted to travel to Australia to meet Ronny in person. She just needed some help from Ronny to pay for the flights, and promised to pay him back when she arrived. Ronny happily sent the money via Western Union, and the ticket was booked.

The week before Elaine was due to fly out, she sent Ronny a message saying she needed more money to be able to visit. Ronny reflects, “it seems suspicious but I was emotionally invested and was really looking forward to meeting her, so I sent the money." Ronny received further messages from Elaine requesting more money, which he obliged to a total of $20,000.

Ronny arrived at the airport on the day Elaine was due to land, however she wasn’t on the flight. She messaged Ronny and said she’d been held at customs in Cairo, and needed money so she could leave the country. Elaine begged Ronny to help her.

This situation went on for a few more months. By the time Ronny called it quits on the relationship, accepting it was a scam, he had sent over $130,000 to ‘Elaine’. Ronny finally told his children, who now help to support him financially and emotionally. Ronny warns, “I hope sharing what happened to me helps other people understand the dangers of online romance.”

Worried that a family member or friend may be a victim of a romance scam? Learn more about how you can Help your friends and family date safely online.

Investment scams

Couple Paul and Lisa had been thinking about how they might fast track their wealth creation plans. They ran a successful plumbing company with three vans and a small team of staff, and were in a comfortable position.

Doing some online research Lisa came across information about virtual currency Bitcoin and how they were the investment of the future, with a lot of people making amazing returns. She raised it with Paul that night and suggested that they consider investing.

The next day Lisa received a phone call from a Bitcoin dealer, who offered Paul and Lisa an introductory offer of an initial investment of $2,500, instead of the usual minimum trade of $10,000.

Four weeks later they received a payout of $3,440 on that initial investment, and were advised that their equity in coins was now worth $10,000. With such attractive returns they both agreed that they would invest more to maximise their return, spurred on by their Bitcoin dealer Joe.

As time went on, they started to receive messages from Joe letting them know that they needed to pay new ‘fees’ to comply with government regulations. Looking back on it, Paul comments, “it was like we were free falling. He told us to go to the bank for a loan but we had gone far enough”.

Lisa and Paul realised something was wrong when they tried to log into their Bitcoin account, and found that their log in credentials no longer worked. Calls to Joe went unanswered and then his number was disconnected, and there was no response from the company’s email address.

Lisa and Paul realised they had fallen for a sophisticated investment scam. They were not alone; many well educated and intelligent Australians have fallen victim to these sophisticated scams, with Australian reporting $23,000,000 in losses to investment scams this year.

For more information on how to validate if an investment is genuine, visit:

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