As the end of the year draws nearer, reports of scams have increased with scammers using increasingly sophisticated methods to part the unaware from their money. Recent scam reports take advantage of seasonal trends, with an uptick in scams impersonating the ATO or appearing to be about a package delivery. Here's all the dodgy emails and phone calls to look out for.
One of the scariest and most widespread scams currently making the rounds involves a robo-caller that leaves a pre-recorded message telling the recipient to call a certain number back as soon as possible, or else they will be arrested.
It's an unpleasant call to receive even if you identify it as a scam, and the dire warnings are often enough to scare people into calling the number specified.
If you get this call you can safely ignore it, however. Don't call the number back. If you do, they will pressure you for your personal details and for money.
These scams are often done by callers claiming to be from the ATO, and telling the recipient they have an unpaid tax bill and will be arrested if they don't pay it soon. However this is not how the ATO will notify you if you do happen to owe money. If you're unsure, call the ATO customer service number on 13 28 61.
In general, Australian agencies won't call using a robotic voice, so if you hear one of these it's best to hang up straight away.
Parcel Delivery Scam
This scam is more specific to the Christmas period, and tend to pop up every year as more and more people shop online and expect a larger number of parcels to be delivered.
These messages usually come by email, and spoof Australia Post or other parcel delivery services. The email will have you click a link to supposedly check or confirm a delivery, and the link will then download a virus onto your computer.
While it can be tempting to click on everything involving an impending delivery, it's more important than ever to be careful any time a message involves a link or an attachment. Don't open links unless it's necessary, and if it is necessary, make sure you check out the sender's address carefully or even better, go straight through the main website instead of the email link.
Medicare Text Scam
As the title would suggest, this scam comes via SMS, and claims to be from Medicare.
The text message will say that the recipient has unclaimed Medicare benefits, and will instruct users to click on a link to access them. Unlike prior scams that work based on fear, this scam offers a reward, often with an exact dollar value to entice people to click.
The government has released a statement about the scam, saying government text messages don't ever include links, and to avoid answering the text or clicking the link. If you're unsure, log onto Medicare via MyGov, or call to make sure.
General Scam Advice
Aside from the above advice about being wary of links and attachments, there are a few things to do to keep yourself safe from scams.
Remember that government agencies and banks will never ask you to log in over email or text, and won't as you to send sensitive information over these channels either.
If someone pretending to be a legitimate agency asks for payment in a strange manner, such as through iTunes gift cards or via a Bitcoin ATM, you should stop corresponding with whoever has asked you for payment and get in touch with the agency's customer care.
Above all, it pays to be wary of anything claiming to be an immediate threat or a sudden windfall, or anything from a known agency that doesn't quite look right.
As always it's worth relaying this information to your less technologically literate friends and family, and make sure you stay safe online this holiday season.