ACCC warns of new scam costing Aussies thousands

Australia’s consumer watchdog is warning people to be aware of a new type of scam that specifically targets the victims of previous scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says a new ‘money recovery’ scam mostly targets those who have been scammed before.

People who have previously lost money to a scam are receiving unsolicited offers to recover that money in exchange for an up-front fee. The ACCC says Australians have lost more than $270,000 to these scams so far this year -an increase of 301 per cent.

“Scammers will ask for money and personal information before offering to ‘help’ the victim and will then disappear and stop all contact,” says ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.

“Money recovery scams are particularly nasty as they target scam victims again. These scams can lead to significant psychological distress as many of the people have already lost money or identity information.”

Read: The psychological tactics scammers use

Scammers are posing as a trusted organisation such as a law firm or government agency. They often use professional looking websites with fake testimonials from clients they have ‘helped’.

They usually ask for an upfront payment, and also get victims to fill out fake paperwork and identity documents. They may also request remote access to a victim’s personal computer or phone.

Even if you haven’t been the victim of a scam, there is still reason to be on alert.

Another tactic used is contacting people by phone or email who have not been the victim of a scam, and try to convince them they have unknowingly lost money and are entitled to a ‘settlement’ – for a fee of course.

Read: How older Australians can fight back against scammers

“If you are contacted out of the blue by someone offering to help you recover scam losses for a fee, it is a scam. Hang up the phone, delete the email and ignore any further contacts,” Ms Rickard says.

“Don’t give financial details or copies of identity documents to anyone who you’ve never met in person and never give strangers remote access to your devices.

“Scammers can be very convincing and one way to spot them is to search online for the name of the organisation who contacted you with words like ‘complaint’, ‘scam’ or ‘review’.”

If you think you may have been a victim of this scam, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible.

Read: Are older people more likely to fall for COVID scams?

People who are the victim of this, or any, scam can access help with money recovery by contacting the government-run IDCARE, a free service that can help you develop a detailed response plan. IDCARE will never contact you unsolicited.

Australians lost a shocking $323 million to scammers in 2021, with more than 286,000 individuals scammed.

Investment scams accounted for $177 million, followed by dating and romance scams which cost victims about $52 million.

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Written by Brad Lockyer