Nila Sweeney

I’ve been to Thailand twice and both times ended up at a “gem store” against my will. Con artists are slick – just when you think you’re wise to the game, the game suddenly changes.

 

 In Thailand, it’s somewhat of a benevolent ruse between tuk tuk drivers and tourists, but unfortunately scams are just a prevalent in Australia – and there’s potential to lose a lot more than your shopping time when a scam involves your bank or credit card.

 

Data from the Australian Payments Clearing Association reveals that last financial year there were 660,000 credit and charge card frauds totaling $155m.

 

Here’s a look at some of the most popular hustles involving your bank and/or credit card:

 

1.)    Phoney fraud alert – what could be more sneaky than a fraudster pretending to save you from fraud? Here’s how this scam works.  The con artist phones you and claims to be from your financial institution. He tells you your credit card has been cancelled because it was involved in criminal activity, or used to make a large purchase overseas. The scammer then tells you immediate action needs to be taken, as your card has been stolen. He may then ask you to confirm your credit card or bank account details so the bank can investigate the situation. In some cases the fraudster will already have you credit card number and may quote it back to you. You are then asked to confirm that you are the cardholder by telling them the 3 or 4 digit security number printed on the card. Once this number is given out, he can then use your card to purchase items over the Internet or phone. This is a particularly tricky scam as banking institutions and credit card companies sometimes do contact you regarding suspicious activity on your account.

 

How to protect yourself – Never reply to the email or SMS or give your account details over the phone. Call your institution using the number on your card (not one given in the email, SMS or from the previous caller) and investigate whether you are legitimately being contacted from someone at your financial institution.

 

 2.)    Card cloning –  …also known as card skimming, is the illegal copying of information from the magnetic strip of your credit card or ATM card. Once your card has been skimmed, the scammers can create a fake card with your details on it. It’s also a great way for scammers to steal your identity, which will allow the scammer to borrow money or take out loans in your name. Some warning signs that your card may have been skimmed include:

 

-          a shop assistant takes your card out of sight to process your transaction

-          you are asked to swipe your card through more than one machine

-          you see a shop assistant swipe your card through a different machine to the one you used

-          you notice something suspicious over the card slot on an ATM

-          there are unauthorized transactions on your account

 

How to protect yourself: Chip technology is drastically reducing card skimming, but not all merchants have chip-enabled card readers. Question the merchant if they start to walk away with your card or take it out of your sight and offer to pay for the transaction using an alternative method or do not make the purchase from that shop altogether.

 

3.)    Overpayment scam – This credit card scam targets small and medium businesses. Usually the “prospective buyer” claims they have made a credit card payment for more than the agreed price and then they will request the business owner to forward excess money onto freight companies, travel agents or other businesses via wire or money transfer.

 

How to protect yourself: Be suspicious of someone placing a large or complicated order from overseas, or insisting on paying by credit card for an amount over and above the invoiced price. Also watch out for customers using a more than one set of credit card numbers.

 

 4.)    Survey scam – This is a two-part scam. In part one, the scammer phones you up pretending to do a telephone survey. The caller may ask you two or three questions, such as ‘which bank or financial institution do you use’ and ‘are you happy with their service’ or ‘would you consider changing banks’. The caller may also ask you which branch you opened your account at. Once they’ve got this information they can find the BSB number, which often makes up the starting digits of your bank account number. Then in part two of the scam, you will receive a second phone call. The caller will then use some of the information gleaned in the original phone call to give the impression that they are legitimate. The caller may sound convincing because they know which bank you are with, which branch you use or the starting digits of your bank account number. They may claim that you have been overcharged in bank fees and that by paying an ‘administration fee’ or ‘tax’ you can receive that money back. You could even be given a fake reference number or return phone number.

 

How to protect yourself: Never give out any information or confirm your personal details, or give money to someone over the phone. Be suspicious of anyone claiming to be from a bank or a government office.

 

 5.)    Trojans – Phishing e-mails has been around for almost 10 years and people are getting wise to fake messages from banks or businesses.  As a result, cyber scammers are bringing out Trojans, or computer viruses, to collect banking or credit card data from your computer. Australia is currently ranked ninth in attack volume and fifth in top attack hosting countries. You can unknowingly download a Trojan by clicking on free games or music downloaded from the Internet, or by visiting a website or clicking on a link contained in a spam e-mail.

 

How to protect yourself: Do not open unsolicited e-mail or click on any links in a spam e-mail. Install software that protects your computer from viruses and unwanted programs. Also beware of free websites and downloads, as you may install harmful programs. Avoid using software on your computer that auto-completes online forms, which gives scammers access to your personal details.

 

For more information on scams, or for information on what to do if you’ve been the victim of a scam, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au.

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