Beware of fraudsters

Senior Constable Michael Brantz

As I sit down to write this month’s police article, it’s the first day of ‘Scams Awareness Week’ which runs between May 21 and 25. This year’s message for Australians is to be on the lookout for threat-based impersonation scams by taking a moment to ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’

Recently an Australian Tax Office (ATO) impersonation scam did the rounds of the Cooloola Coast, with victims contacted by fraudsters (purporting to be from the ATO) and told to pay fines immediately using iTunes gift cards, or risk being arrested. Fortunately, most businesses selling iTunes cards were aware of the scam, which helped to prevent innocent people being defrauded.

The main thing to remember in cases like this is, government agencies or reputable businesses will not act in an abusive manner, threaten you with immediate arrest for non-payment of debts and will definitely NOT ask for payment through unusual methods, such as gift cards.

As we progress towards becoming a cashless society, with more people and businesses than ever before using electronic banking and credit cards, the likelihood of becoming a victim of fraud is increasing.

Imagine dropping your credit card in the main street of Rainbow Beach one busy weekend.  In the time it takes you to realise your card is missing, it could fall into the wrong hands and be used to make numerous small ‘paywave’ purchases around town, potentially totalling hundreds of dollars.

This scenario played out in Rainbow Beach last month, the only difference being that the victim placed a ‘block’ on his credit card as soon as he realised it was missing, preventing any purchases being made.

The only benefit this fraudster gained was a front-row seat to the Gympie Courthouse later this month.

By now, most people understand the basics of keeping their personal details and information safe. Unfortunately, as we get better at protecting our information, the crims also get better,  coming up with more convincing and elaborate schemes to steal your hard-earned dollars.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ‘Scamwatch’ website lists 25 different types of scams to beware of.  It’s well worth logging on to www.scamwatch.gov.au where you can access a wealth of information about the latest scams and how to protect yourself.

So the next time you’re about to hand over any personal information or money; ‘Stop and check: is this for real?’