Five ways you can stay safe from scams


Scams are big business in Australia. Consumer watchdog, the ACCC, reports that in 2022, Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scams.

The scary part is that despite a wealth of education campaigns, the 2022 losses represent an 80% uptick on the total losses recorded in 2021.

In a bid to stem the losses, May 2023 saw a new National Anti-Scam Centre established. Over the next three years the centre will bring together experts from government and the private sector to tackle harmful scams and make Australia a harder target for scammers.

sponsored how to avoid being scammed

Banks and other financial institutions are also playing a role investing in new technologies to protect consumers.

But there is a lot we can do as individuals to protect ourselves.

Here are five simple steps that can go a long way to protect you from becoming another statistic in the battle against scammers.

1. Understand how you might be vulnerable

Scammers know that fraud works because we are each vulnerable to different things.

People who have recently fallen out of work tend to be more vulnerable to job and employment scams. Those of us who are less digitally-savvy are often more vulnerable to impersonation and remote access scams.

It is worth pausing for a moment to think about whether a particular money decision could expose you to scammers. You may, for example, have come across a website via social media that's offering what appears to be a great discount on footwear. It can seem harmless but in pursuing a bargain, you could be looking at a scam that preys on your natural vulnerabilities.

2. Keep an eye on your account 

It is always good practice to regularly check your bank accounts to be sure every transaction is familiar.  The sooner you notice something is wrong, the sooner the transaction can be investigated.

Many banks have invested in their technology to enhance account security. Heritage and People's Choice, for instance, offers transaction notifications via multiple channels. These notifications can alert our members whenever money enters or leaves their accounts, allowing members to immediately identify and report when something is not quite right.

Check out what your bank offers to protect you against scams, and take advantage of any security features.

3. Stay on top of what's happening

Cyber crooks don't stand still for long. We regularly see new scams appear, while current ones evolve. This makes it essential to stay aware of what is happening.

The ACCC's Scamwatch website is a useful resource to keep up to date with the latest cyber threats. Check your bank's website too.

At Heritage Bank and People's Choice, we publish regular scam updates on our website and via social media. This helps our members understand the different ways they might be targeted by scammers.

4. Reporting is key

If you fall victim to a scam, is it vital that you report what has happened to your bank and the relevant police or government agencies as soon as possible.

Like many banks, Heritage and People's Choice can assist with reports of scams 24/7, and we can take instant action to lock down a member's internet banking and cards to prevent further losses.

Reporting fraud also helps us better protect our members. We have 24-hour real-time detection capabilities backed by a dedicated team of fraud analysts. Part of their role is to contact members when our systems detect suspicious transactions. Having robust data about fraudulent transactions supports the success of this technology.

5. Talk to friends and family

There is no doubt that being scammed is a dreadful experience. And the ordeal can extend beyond direct financial losses. If crooks steal your identify, the fallout can even affect your credit record and personal credit score.

Many people find it hard to admit they have fallen victim to a scam. It can be embarrassing, and so they stay silent. However, this works in the fraudsters' favour. They thrive when consumers hesitate to report losing money to scams.

Having the courage to share your story with family and friends - and report what has happened to your bank - can be a great way to save others from having to go through a similar ordeal in future.

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Joshua Melia manages the intelligence, detection and system support team at Heritage and People's Choice. He has been in the banking sector for six years, working with Westpac before joining Heritage and People's Choice. Joshua is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and holds a Bachelor of Business (Finance) and a Graduate Certificate of Science (Applied Data Science), both from the University of Southern Queensland.