How to report a scam and who to report it to

Tim Falk 29 July 2016

report a scam

Have you been targeted by scammers? Here’s what you need to do to report a scam to the relevant authorities.

Thanks to advances in modern technology, scammers have more ways to target innocent Australians than ever before. From investment schemes to fraud, phishing, identity theft and even the famous Nigerian email scam, there are plenty of potential threats that you should be wary of.

If you’ve been targeted by scammers or fallen victim to a scam, it’s vital that you report the scam to the right government agency. Not only will this help you find out about your rights and the chances of getting your money back, but it will also prevent the scam from spreading and affecting more innocent people.

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Types of scams

Common scams run with the aim of getting access to your personal information or defrauding you can typically be split into a number of categories, including:

Financial and investment scams

This category includes any scam involving an investment opportunity, such as shares, superannuation, managed funds, financial advice and insurance. Examples include costly investment seminars, unsolicited cold calls from “investment experts”, sports betting syndicates and pyramid schemes.

Banking and credit card scams

Examples include phishing scams designed to trick you into giving out your bank account details, hacking attacks and credit card fraud.

Threats and extortion

These types of scams often involve malware that tracks what you’re doing on your computer, or “ransomware” that locks your files and demands payment in order for you to access your files.

Tax scams

These types of scams usually take the form of unsolicited emails or phone calls that claim to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) but are actually from scammers trying to gain access to your personal and financial information.

Unexpected money scams

These include false promises of an inheritance, unexpected lottery or prize winnings, scratchie scams and requests for help to transfer a large amount of money out of a foreign country.

Buying and selling scams

Scams in this category include dodgy classified ads, false billing scams, fake online merchants and psychic and clairvoyant scams.

Online dating scams

Scammers use dating websites, apps and email to trick lonely people into providing money, gifts or their personal information.

Scam statistics

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians lost nearly $85 million to scams in 2015. The ACCC received 105,200 reports of scams during 2015, with investment schemes and dating and romance scams each accounting for more than $20 million of money lost. Phishing scams were the most common type of scam reported to the ACCC, accounting for more than 15,000 reports across the calendar year.

Where to report different types of scams

Are you unsure of which government authority you should report a scam to? The table below shows who you should contact if you’ve been targeted by scammers.

ScamWho to contact
Financial and investment scamsAny misconduct should be reported to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Banking and credit card scamsInform your bank or financial institution and report the matter to the local police.
Cybercrime (hacking, fraud, identity theft, malware attacks, etc)The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) operates a secure reporting and referral service.
Tax scamsContact the ATO to verify or report a scam.
Fraud, theft and other crimesThese should be reported to your local police or the Australian Federal Police.
Spam emailsSpam emails can be reported to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Any spam emails that request banking information should be reported to your bank, while any that request taxation information should be reported to the ATO.
Scams in your state or territoryAs well as any other relevant bodies, these scams can be reported to your state or territory’s office of fair trading.
Scams from interstate or overseasReport these scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) via its SCAMwatch website.

If you’re unsure of which category a particular scam falls into, visit the ACCC’s SCAMwatch website. This site contains detailed information regarding a huge range of scams and how you can avoid and report them.

What do I need to do to report a scam?

The exact process for reporting a scam will vary depending on the organisation you are reporting the scam to. For example, if you’re reporting a scam to your bank, you will most likely have to provide details of what the scam involved and which (if any) of your accounts were affected.

If you’re reporting a scam to a government authority, in many cases you will need to fill out an online form or phone the agency to provide full details of the scam. As an example, here’s a guide on how to report a scam to SCAMwatch:

  1. Click the link above to be taken to the SCAMwatch website.
  2. Select the type of scam.
  3. Specify how you were contacted by the scammer.
  4. Specify when you were first contacted.
  5. Provide details of the losses you suffered.
  6. Provide details about the scammer (if applicable).
  7. Enter a brief description of the scam.
  8. Upload any attachments to support your report.
  9. Click “Next” to submit your report.

Why is it important to report a scam?

Falling victim to a scam can be frustrating, devastating and even quite embarrassing, but it’s still vital that you report any scams to the relevant government agency. Whether you contact the police, ASIC, the ACCC or even the consumer affairs or fair trading body where you live, when you report a scam you will be able to find out what options are available to you in terms of regaining any losses.

Reporting a scam is also the best way to prevent other Australians becoming victims. Unreported scams can spread and entrap other innocent people, causing them financial loss and heartache. By reporting a scam you are helping to stop scams from occurring and defrauding other people.

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