Sophisticated scammers target Queenslanders

How to protect yourself from scams.

I rarely answer the phone if it’s a number I don’t recognise. It’s more likely to be a scammer than my partner trying to call from his office or a family emergency.

In fact, while researching this story I received two scam calls and answered them against my better judgment.

One was a robotic-sounding recording saying that because I had an outstanding tax bill there was a warrant out for my arrest and police were on their way. Of course, the only way to stop police showing up at my doorstep was to pay the extremely large “bill”.

It was obvious that call was a scam and I hung up immediately, however the other call was more subtle. The caller claimed to be from my internet service provider and offered me a better deal on my internet access.

He knew my name and had my phone number so it seemed legitimate. Plus who doesn’t want to save a bit of money?

Then he started asking for personal information that the company already had to “verify my identity” and got annoyed when I didn’t give him the information – that’s when I knew for sure it was a scam and hung up the phone.

RACQ Group Executive Banking Michelle Winzer said I was just one of many Queenslanders targeted by increasingly sophisticated phone and email scams each day.

“We’ve seen an increase in scams as people do more of their personal business online,” Mrs Winzer said.

“Scammers are very convincing and a scam call or email could easily seem like it has come from a legitimate source.”

Mrs Winzer said there was no shame in not recognising a scam.

“Often people who have been scammed feel embarrassed about telling anybody and feel like they should have known better,” she said.

“These scammers who phone up and pretend to be somebody else are very clever and it’s very easy to be drawn into what they’re saying.

“You shouldn’t feel ashamed because the scammers are very sophisticated and the scams are constantly evolving.”

In 2020, about 39,000 Queenslanders reported scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, resulting in a loss of more than $32 million*.

Mrs Winzer said protecting your personal information would make it harder for scammers to target you.

“The first and most important step is to protect your information,” she said.

“That means don’t give out your passwords or your personal and financial details, not even to a family member.

“Make sure your passwords are kept in a safe place and that you change them often.”

Mrs Winzer said avoiding telephone scams, like the one I experienced, was as simple as calling the company back.

“Be cautious and hang up the phone, look up the company’s number independently in the phone book, online or on a statement, and call them directly on that number, not the one that you received a call on,” she said.

“Every organisation is aware of scams and they understand why you would want to validate the call.

“It only takes a couple of minutes and is an easy way to protect yourself.”

If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank immediately.

“Online transactions can be completed in seconds these days so it’s important to get onto your bank as soon as possible as timing is critical,” Mrs Winzer said.

“The sooner you let us know about it, the sooner we can act, but if you leave it too long there’s less chance of getting the funds back.”

Mrs Winzer said RACQ Bank worked behind the scenes to protect members from fraudulent transactions.

“We have 24/7 monitoring where we can look for suspicious transactions and if something looks out of the ordinary we’ll block the transaction until we can validate it with the member,” she said.

“Our internet banking transactions are secured by two-factor authentication so not only do we require a username and password but also an extra piece of information that only you know to enhance financial security levels. “We try really hard to protect our members but the most important thing is to protect your personal information.”

Mrs Winzer said the Australian Government’s Scamwatch site contained details of current scams. “Scamwatch is a great resource to keep up-to-date with current scams,” she said.

“It can be helpful to make sure your vulnerable family members are aware of what scams are out there.

“We don’t want anyone to lose money and education, as well as keeping your personal information safe, can help keep that from happening.” 

Stay safe from scams

  • Never give out passwords or personal information.
  • Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly.
  • Don’t open suspicious texts or emails.
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Never provide strangers with access to your computer.

*Source: Scamwatch

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.
Members Banking Group Limited ABN 83 087 651 054 AFSL and Australian credit licence 241195 trading as RACQ Bank.