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How to spot a scam

If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, don’t feel bad – you aren’t the only one. But knowing how to spot them can help save you a fortune.


Senior Australians are increasingly being targeted by scammers. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ScamWatch service, over 55s lost more than $39 million nationally in 2017, a rise of more than $13 million from 2016.

Often, older Australians have more money and wealth than younger Australians, which makes them attractive to scammers.

They may use dating sites and social media to hone in on older Australians who are emotionally vulnerable after a divorce or the loss of a long-term partner.

Seniors who are less familiar with new technology can also be seen as an easier target by scammers.

Delia Rickard, deputy chair, ACCC, says some scams are becoming very sophisticated, with social media being used to contact and deceive people.

But it’s not only modern technology that is being used. “In the past few years, reports indicate scammers are using aggressive techniques both over the phone and online.”

ScamWatch data shows phone, email, social networking, and internet scams accounted for 85 per cent of losses across Australia, from more than 130,000 reports.

Here are some of the common scams targeting seniors.


You or your business will be asked to fork out money for a potential financial opportunity.

Dating and romance

Scammers use dating websites, apps, or social media to strike up a relationship with someone. They then get the person to provide them with money, gifts, or personal details.

Unexpected prizes or lottery winnings 

Most frequently, targets will be asked to pay a fee to claim a prize from a lottery or competition they haven’t entered.


These scams ask targets to share bank or credit card details or send money in order to receive an inheritance.


Targets are told they’re entitled to a rebate or reimbursement from the government, a bank, or another trusted organisation.

Door-to-door or home maintenance

These scams can include trying to sell people gardening or roofing services. They may then be charged for additional work they didn’t agree to. Another tactic is the scammer will pretend to be conducting a survey so they can collect personal details.

Rather than locking yourself away from the world to avoid potential scammers, just make sure you know how to protect yourself.

  • Feeling pressured to make a decision? That’s a red flag. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency through short deadlines, a fake emergency, or the threat of legal action.
  • Tread with caution if you’ve received any requests for money, or bank or credit card details – even if they seem official. Government departments never contact someone asking for money up-front so they can claim a rebate.
  • Scammers often ask you to use an unusual payment method such as a preloaded debit card, gift card, iTunes card, a wire transfer, or even Bitcoin.
  • Door-to-door scammers may turn up late at night or even after you’ve refused an offer. There can be pressure to accept an offer immediately or to pay a deposit or make full payment with cash or credit card only. Be wary of anyone who doesn’t show you any identification or contact details; or provide quotes or receipts in writing.
  • Keep your guard up if anyone on social media or dating platforms professes to have strong feelings for you after only a few contacts, particularly if they want you to communicate via chat or email rather than via the site.
  • Don’t respond to phone calls or emails offering financial advice or opportunities.
  • Always verify any contact by calling the organisation directly and use contact information from an independent source, not the details provided in a message sent to you.