How to keep yourself safe from money recovery scams

Have you been targeted by a scam? You are not alone, and unfortunately, you may be targeted again chasing a solution.

According to Scamwatch, Australians lost a whopping $113,270,400 between January and May 2024. 

That’s a horrifying figure. But it gets worse, because the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found scammers are targeting scam victims for further financial pain and older Australians are more likely to fall victim to this particular crime. 

The ACCC has warned scam victims to be wary of any offers to recover their money for an upfront fee. It says scams involving ‘money recovery’ are on the rise.

Between December 2023 and May 2024, Scamwatch received 158 reports of money recovery scams, with total losses of over $2.9 million, including losses from the original scam.

The number of reports increased by 129 per cent compared to the six months prior. However, financial losses decreased by 29 per cent from $4.1 million.  

Damaging and cruel scam

Unfortunately, scam victims are easily identified by criminals who keep and sell their data, 

and the ACCC says Australians aged 64 and older suffered the highest average losses. 

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said money recovery scams were particularly “damaging and cruel”. 

“Criminals prey on people who have already been victims of a scam who hope to get their money back. They are another example of scammers’ willingness to exploit people’s desperation at a vulnerable moment,” Ms Lowe said.

“Scammers pose as trusted parties such as government agencies, lawyers, or even charities. We are also aware of criminals pretending to be a victim themselves and claiming that a specific person or entity helped them get their money back.”

Ms Lowe said multiple scams can compound financial and emotional harm. 

“For example, we know of a person who was the target of multiple scams in succession. What began as a romance baiting investment scam was followed by a money recovery scam, which led to a remote access scam, and finally identity theft,” Ms Lowe said.

“In other cases, victims unknowingly proactively contacted criminals after seeing advertisements online. 

“As part of our initial response, the National Anti-Scam Centre has referred two websites used in recovery scams for takedown action. One has been successfully taken down already,” Ms Lowe said.

How they work

It’s very simple: scammers keep data on who has been successfully scammed and will use that information to promise victims they can recover their losses for an upfront fee. 

They usually pose as an official agency, government department, recovery service, lawyer or charity.  

The scammers may not even initiate contact. Desperate victims will often search online for how to recover their money and will find a dodgy website or contact information and fall victim again. 

The ACCC says scammers may also pretend to be a victim themselves and recommend a ‘service’ to help others recover money. 

Victims should be wary of any recovery offers, as even legitimate scam investigations have enormous difficulty recovering money. In fact, in most cases, money is transferred offshore almost immediately, making recovery almost impossible. 

What you can do

Scams are becoming more sophisticated as we become more aware of them. The ACCC says you are less likely to fall victim to scams if you remain in control and keep calm. 

Here are its four steps to protect yourself from scams: 

Step 1: Stop

  • If you have been scammed before and see an ad or are contacted by someone with an offer to help recover money for an up-front fee, it’s a scam.
  • Say no, hang up, delete and block any attempts at repeated contact.

Step 2: Check

  • Criminals pretend to be from organisations you know and trust. Verify who you’re speaking to by contacting the organisation using contact information sourced independently.

Step 3: Protect yourself

  • Never accept offers from anyone who contacts you and says they can get your money back. Make all requests to recover your money to your financial institution and report to the police.
  • Don’t give financial, cryptocurrency or account details, or copies of your identity documents to anyone online.
  • Never give strangers remote access to your computer even if they claim they are legitimate.
  • Only use lawyers registered with the official Law Society or Bar Association in your state.
  • If a criminal has your money or personal details:
    • Call your bank immediately using a number from your banking app or on your bank card.
    • Contact IDCARE for support on 1800 595 160.
    • If, after contacting your financial institution you are unsatisfied with their response, you can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA – AFCA provides consumers and small businesses with fair, free and independent resolution for financial complaints.

Step 4: Report the scam

  • Report it here to help stop another person getting caught by similar scams.

Have you ever reported a scam? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Two factor authentication scams are on the rise

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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