• Serendipity Team

How to avoid sophisticated scams

While technology has unfortunately made scamming more common, the new schemes making the rounds are generally variations of ones you might already be familiar with. We step through the latest scams and what you can do to try and protect yourself and your finances.

How to spot an online scam

Unprofessional looking emails can be a sign that something is amiss. Look out for emails that have odd formatting or broken images.

Simply, scams succeed because they look real and catch you off-guard. Sometimes they’re easy to spot, like an SMS littered with mistakes. Other times they may look so close that they’d confuse even a trained observer. Here are some tips for keeping your finances safe:

  • Look out for things that don’t make sense. Things like Australia Post asking you to pay for redelivery or your electricity provider asking you to pay an overdue bill with an iTunes gift card. Or a friend sending you a strange email or SMS.

  • Being sceptical is one of your best defences against scammers. Whenever you’re contacted unexpectedly – either through the phone, email or even in person – you should consider that it may be a scam.

  • A quick check can help verify the legitimacy of a request. If you receive a message asking you to do something from a person or organisation you know, reach out to them to verify that it was actually them who sent the message. Contact the sender through a different channel. Don’t use the phone number or email provided in the suspicious communication, rather get the number from your records or a web search.

  • Don’t click on links you receive in a suspicious email or SMS. Clicking a link may install malware, like viruses, spyware or ransomware on your phone or other electronic device. This is all done behind the scenes, so it is undetectable to the average person. Once the malware has been installed, it could collect your sensitive information, send out messages to contacts in your address book or provide a cyber-criminal with access to your information.

  • Hang up if anyone ever calls you asking for remote access to your computer. Your internet provider will not need to access your machine remotely and the scammer is likely looking to install something malicious that will give them access to your sensitive information.

  • A strong password is one of the best things you can do to help secure your data. As convenient as it is to repeat passwords, having a unique code for each account is the best way to keep everything secure. That way, even if the password for one of your accounts is compromised, your other accounts will still be safe.

  • Don’t send sensitive information via email. Because emails can be intercepted, try to avoid emailing information such as credit card numbers. Also take care with personal details such as your date of birth, signature and the details of your super and investment accounts.

  • Keeping your physical records secure. Putting a lock on your mailbox and shredding anything containing sensitive information is a smart thing to do.

How to spot a fake

There are a lot of different ways that people try to separate you from your money. It’s easy to find a high-quality logo online and mock up a fake document. Taking a moment to look more deeply can save you a lot of time mitigating damage in the future. Here are a few warning signs to look for.

  • Poor grammar and spelling are a red flag. This is because scammers use misspellings to slip through anti-spam security systems. And because legitimate organisations generally avoid these types of errors.

  • Emails that aren’t addressed to your name need a closer look. If you received a letter asking you to do something and it didn’t have any of your details on it, you’d be sceptical. The same goes for an email or an SMS.

  • Unprofessional looking emails can be a sign that something is amiss. Look out for emails that have odd formatting or broken images.

Scammers love a ticking clock

A scammer is looking to pressure you into making a decision quickly. By pressuring you when you feel vulnerable, they hope that you will make an irrational decision which will allow them to extract money from you. This can include things like pretending to be law enforcement or a government agency threatening you with legal action or eviction if a bill isn’t paid.

There are common scams where a scammer pretends to be a loved one who needs a medical bill paid or is stuck in a foreign country and needs you to send money to help them out. Or the scammer says they have embarrassing information about you. They will use this sense of urgency to encourage you to react without thinking things through. If you feel like you’re being pressured into an action, you should take a step back, slow things down and talk it over with someone you trust.

Ultimately, if you’re suspicious, don’t send money and cut off the communication

Talk to your financial advisor

Serendipity Wealth can help you protect yourself from scams. In particular, if you notice some suspicious transactions or communications about your superannuation or investment accounts, contact us without delay.

What you need to know

This information is provided and produced by Serendipity Wealth Advisors. The advice provided is general advice only as, in preparing it we did not take into account your investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs. Before making an investment decision on the basis of this advice, you should consider how appropriate the advice is to your particular investment needs and objectives. You should also consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision relating to a financial product. Information in this document is based on current regulatory requirements and laws, as of 1 June 2022, which may be subject to change.