Download PDF

Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and use cunning tactics and new technology to draw people in.

Investment and online dating scams continue to be the most financially devastating, but business email compromise scams are catching up.

Scams are always changing and everyone is a target, no matter their background, age or income.

In 2020, the combined financial losses to scams reported to Scamwatch, ReportCyber (ACSC), ASIC, other government agencies and 10 financial institutions (ANZ, CBA, NAB, Westpac, BoQ, Bendigo and Adelaide bank, Macquarie, Suncorp, Western Union and MoneyGram)  totaled 851 million.

Between January and mid September 2021, losses of $211 million were reported to Scamwatch, an 89 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

People 65 and over have lost the most money so far in 2021 and the most common form of contact from scammers has been by phone.

Losses to scams have been higher in every month of 2021 compared to 2020 (except for April) and the losses have been substantially higher from May 2021.


Remember: Reporting scams can help others from falling victim.


You can be scammed

  • online,
  • by phone,
  • by post, or
  • in person.


Tactics scammers use

  • they pretend to be a government official;
  • they claim to be from a well-known business or impersonate a known contact to gain trust;
  • they suggest the ways you can verify information, like going to websites they have created or calling numbers they give you;
  • they know how to appeal to your emotions; and
  • they create a sense of urgency to get you to make decisions without thinking.


How to spot a scam

  • someone you don’t know contacts you out of the blue;
  • someone you’ve never met in person asks for money;
  • someone you don’t know asks you to pay for something in advance;
  • someone asks you to pay for something or give them money by unusual payment methods such as preloaded debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrencies;
  • someone offers you something that sounds too good to be true – such as an online shopping deal, the chance to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme, that you’ve won a competition or that  you have an unclaimed inheritance;
  • someone asks you for personal information – including your bank details or passwords;
  • someone asks you for access to your computer; or
  • someone tries to pressure you into buying something or making a decision quickly.


How to protect yourself from being scammmed

  • If you’ve only met someone online or are unsure if the business is genuine, do your research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for reviews of the business;
  • If someone invites you to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme do your own research. Search to see if the company has an Australian Financial Services Licence;
  • Verify the identity of the contact independently through a telephone book or online search. Don’t use the contact details provided in the message sent to you;
  • Beware of emails requesting changes to payment details. Always verify changes to payment details directly with the business or individual using contact details you hold separate to the email;
  • Do not click on any links in messages that come to you out of the blue, and never provide any of your personal or banking details to someone you don’t personally know and trust.
  • If a text message or email comes from a friend and it seems out of character, contact your friend directly using a method other than email or text to check they sent it;
  • Use strong passwords by creating passphrases that are memorable to you. Do this for all your devices, including your Wi-Fi. Keep track of them by using a password safe;
  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure – use password protection, update your security software and back up your content;
  • Avoid using public computers for online banking or transmitting personal and financial details;
  • Don’t open anything that looks suspicious including texts, pop-up windows, or links and attachments in emails;
  • Don’t allow anyone remote access to your computer unless you contacted them for a real problem you know about – even if they claim to be from a well-known company. Scammers often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus that will give them your passwords and personal details;
  • Be careful when shopping online – always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Use secure payment methods such as credit card or PayPal;
  • Don’t send money or give bank or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust. Never agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence;
  • Keep your personal details secure: lock your mailbox and shred important documents;
  • Don’t share personal information on social media sites. Scammers use this information to steal your identity or target you; and
  • If someone is trying to pressure you into buying something or making a decision quickly speak first to a trusted friend or family member.


What to do if you have been scammed

  • If you’ve sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact your financial institution immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse a transaction or close your account.
  • If you’ve given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE (, Australia and New Zealand’s not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service. IDCARE can work with you to develop a specific plan to your situation and support you through the process.
  • If the scam occurred on social media report it to the social media platform.
  • Warn your friends and family about these scams.

For more information, visit the Scamwatch website.T o keep up to date on scams, subscribe to Scamwatch email alerts   and follow @Scamwatch_gov Twitter.


Read about how people have been caught by scams.

(All victims agreed to share their story when submitting their report to Scamwatch and their personal details have been changed).


Dating and romance scam – Dan lost $20,000

Compromised business email – Jane and Jeff lost $190,000 

Online shopping scam – Sarah lost $160

Unusual payment – Andrew lost $300

ATO impersonation scam – Anne lost $4,000

Remote access scam –  David lost $520

Investment scam – Lily lost $50,000

Identity fraud – Mary lost $6,028