Anyone can experience scams. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reported that in 2018, Australians lost almost half a billion dollars to reported scams. While you may feel embarrassed or hurt by being caught up in a scam, particularly if it is committed by someone close to you, it is important to know that you can take steps to protect yourself from further loss. You may also be able to recover some of your losses.
Scams That Affect Travellers
Australian travellers of all ages and backgrounds have been victims of scams overseas. Before you go overseas, be aware of some common scams that happen to travellers. If you are overseas and the victim of a scam, you can get more information on the Scammed overseas page.
Unlicensed, unmetered drivers often operate from airport arrivals halls and major tourist destinations. These drivers offer flat-rate fees to tourists. In many cases, the fees are much higher than metered fares. Be aware of apparently friendly taxi drivers who offer you cheap tours. They will take you to shops where they receive a commission. You may be overcharged or sold worthless goods. Some taxi drivers don't use their meters, especially in tourist spots or jammed roads. This is illegal in most countries.
To protect yourself from taxi scams:
- only use licensed taxis
- find out what transport services are available at the airport before you travel
- follow signage or advice of authorities to official taxi services only
- always ask if the driver will use the meter or agree to the fare before you get in a taxi
- at the start of your trip, take note of the vehicle number, the taxi company name and the driver's name
Unlicensed taxi drivers at airports will likely intercept you in the terminal. They'll try and convince you to use their services. However, most licensed taxi providers will be outside the terminal in their vehicle at the official taxi rank.
Vehicle Hire Scams
Jetski, motorcycle and car hire scams can happen overseas. Australians have been harassed and threatened by transport operators for returning allegedly damaged hire vehicles. Some operators have demanded 1000s of dollars and taken passports as collateral — they will keep your passport until you pay for the damage.
To protect yourself from scams, before you hire a vehicle:
- read online reviews of local travel companies
- check the vehicle and take photos of any previous damage
- check your insurance covers you for recreational vehicles, especially if you're unlicensed in Australia
Never leave your passport as a security deposit or collateral.
Wrong Charge Or Overcharging Scams
A common scam is overcharged by merchants, taxi drivers or ticket agents. They may also try to give you the wrong change — for example, giving you a change for $10 when you paid with a $100 note.
Before you travel:
- familiarise yourself with local currency
- get a sense of how much things cost
Avoid using large bills to pay for small items when you're travelling. Instead, pay attention and take your time to check you have the correct change.
In Australia, it's a matter for your state or territory police and the ACCC. Overseas, contact the local police at your destination.
If you are a victim of a financial or internet scam:
- contact your bank or financial institution
- contact the ACCC
- get legal advice
Do not travel overseas to try to get your money back. Victims of scams that travel to the country where they started have endangered their lives. Some have been killed. The Australian Federal Police recommends you report the scam to your state or territory police. Ask for the police report to be sent to INTERPOL.
Fraud is when someone uses dishonest behaviour to gain an advantage over another person or organisation. The advantage is often money, but it may also include goods, services and property. Your personal identity information, social media accounts, photographs and financial details (such as bank accounts) may also be targeted because these can be valuable to criminals who can use them to commit fraud on you or other people.
Threatening someone to get money from them or some other advantage can also be a crime. You may also find the information on theft useful. In some cases, fraud can happen as part of a larger pattern of criminal behaviours such as:
If you believe you may be affected by fraud, it is important to take steps right away to protect yourself from further loss.
Let Your Bank Or Financial Institution Know
If you think any of your banking accounts or credit cards have been affected, contact your financial institution/s as soon as you can and tell them what has happened. They can close or freeze the accounts. This may help to recover any funds lost or prevent further loss.
Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report
A credit reporting agency can check for transactions you did not authorise or give permission for. You can also check if anyone has made inquiries into your credit history that you did not permit them to do – this can help identify who might be using your accounts.
Secure Your Information And Accounts
It is important to take action to secure your personal information as soon as you can if you think it has been used without your permission.
This can include:
- reporting missing or stolen identity documents such as your driving licence and passport
- closing any accounts which have been set up in your names such as phone, gas, electricity, water, department stores and banks or other financial institutions
- It is securing or shutting down social media and online accounts that have been hacked or set up in your name.
Most organisations' websites have information available for people on what to do if their account is not secure or an account has been set up in their name.
Collect Evidence About The Fraud
If you have evidence relating to the fraud, it is a good idea to keep it safe because this can help with the investigation.
Evidence may include:
- any details you have about the person who you believe has committed the fraud
- details of any witnesses
- financial and business records and documents
- receipts and invoices for purchases
- Communications include phone records, emails, text messages, chat messages, letters.
Identity crime is a critical threat to the Australian community. This crime type generates significant profits for offenders and causes considerable financial losses to the Australian Government, private industry and individuals.
A set of standard definitions were developed by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre's Proof of Identity Steering Committee for use by law enforcement throughout Australia (ACPR 2006:15):
The term identity encompasses the identity of natural persons (living or deceased) and the identity of bodies corporate.
Identity fabrication to be used to describe the creation of a fictitious identity
identity manipulation to be used to describe the alteration of one's own identity
identity theft to be used to describe the theft or assumption of a pre-existing identity (or a significant part thereof), with or without consent and whether, in the case of an individual, the person is living or deceased
Identity crime is used as a generic term to describe activities/offences in which a perpetrator uses a fabricated identity; a manipulated identity; or a stolen/assumed identity to facilitate the commission of a crime(s).
Information can be found in Counting the costs of identity crime and misuse in Australia on the Australian Institute of Criminology website.
Once a criminal has the information they need, they could:
- apply for a credit card in your name
- open a bank or building society account in your name
- apply for other financial services in your name
- run up debts (e.g. use your credit/debit card details to make a purchase) or obtain a loan in your name
- apply for any benefits in your name (e.g. housing benefit, new tax credits, income support, job seeker's allowance, child benefit)
- apply for a driving licence in your name
- register a vehicle in your name
- apply for a job/employment in your name
- apply for a passport in your name
- Apply for a mobile phone contract in your name.
- You may become a victim of identity theft if:
- you have lost or had stolen important documents such as your passport or driving licence
- Mail expected from your bank has not arrived, or you are receiving no post at all.
You may already be a victim of identity theft if:
- items have appeared on your bank or credit card statements that you don't recognise
- you applied for a government benefit but are told that you are already claiming
- you receive bills, invoices or receipts addressed to you for goods or services you haven't asked for
- you have been refused a financial service, such as a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history
- a mobile phone contract has been set up in your name without your knowledge
- you have received letters from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren't yours.
FAQs About Scams You Should Be Aware
Credit Card Skimming Scams
Card skimming is the illegal copying of information from the magnetic stripe of a credit or ATM card. Skimming usually occurs when you buy something, and somebody takes your credit card out of your sight. To reduce your risk of credit card skimming:
- ask for your card back straight away if a shop assistant wants to swipe your card out of your sight or in a second machine
- pay with a cheque or cash, or don't buy the item
- never share your PIN, or keep a copy of it with your card
In crowded tourist areas, thieves may create a diversion. They allow thieves to pickpocket you while you are distracted from your valuables. Ways to distract you may include a crowd of beggars jostling you or an offer of help from someone you don't know.
You can reduce your risk of pickpocketing by:
- staying alert in areas where pickpocketing is common
- treat any unusual event as a potential pickpocketing attempt
- put valuables in pockets that are harder to access
- use a tamper-proof backpack or handbag
Visa scams involve travellers buying unnecessary, illegal, or overpriced visas. Some third-party websites charge a fee to submit a visa application on your behalf. Some of these websites are fraudulent.
Avoid visa scams by:
- applying for visas using links or organisations recommended by the embassy or consulate of the country you're visiting
- reading the travel advice for information on entry and exit requirements before you travel
- If you travel on a fake visa, you may be arrested, jailed or deported on arrival.
Fake Ticket And Festival Accommodation Scams
There is high demand for tickets and accommodation for major events, concerts, shows and festivals.
- set up fake websites
- use genuine websites to post fake ads for hotel rooms and holiday rentals
- offer fake accommodation and ticket packages
To avoid an accommodation or ticket scam:
- make a considered choice when you look at accommodation and ticket choices
- use a reputable website
There are legal ticket resellers, but if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. It may be a crime to buy from unlicensed ticket sellers. You could be arrested or jailed overseas.
Massage Or Tea Ceremony Scams
In a message or tea ceremony scam, you may be approached in public. You're invited for a massage, to a teahouse service, or to practise English at a nearby café or bar. After the services have been provided, you will be given an inflated bill. You will not be allowed to leave until the bill is paid. Some Australians have been violently assaulted.
To avoid being a victim of this type of scam:
- don't accept invitations from people you don't know
- be clear on how much services cost before you go ahead
- organise massages and similar services through your hotel or reputable provider
This scam involves an associate or 'friend' asking you to take a bag or package on an international flight or across a border. They may offer to pay you, or they may trick you into thinking you're helping their family. These types of scams can be connected to relationship scams. The bag may contain prohibited items, such as drugs.
- Never carry a bag or package for anyone you've just met.
- If you carry something for someone you know and trust, find out what's in it. Look inside.
Even if it isn't drugs, it could be a restricted or prohibited item in your next destination. So check if you can bring it to Australia (Australian Border Force).
Internet scams often start outside Australia while the victim is still in Australia. Some seek to defraud you while you're in Australia. Others aim to lure you overseas with promises of romance, money or jobs.
Nigerian Letter Scam
The Nigerian letter scam usually starts with an email from someone you don't know. The scammer may say they need your help to transfer money internationally and offer to pay you if you help them. The scammer may ask for your personal or bank details upfront. They may also ask you to put large sums of money in an overseas bank account first. Finally, they may invite you overseas to collect the payment they promised you. Never respond or hand over your details to someone you don't know. Never go overseas to collect your payment or try to get your money back.
Business And Employment Scams
You may be promised large salaries and luxury overseas accommodation as part of a new job. Scammers ask for up-front payment for work permits, visas and immigration fees. Never hand over your details or money unless you're certain it is legitimate. If someone offers you a job or work overseas, do your research first. Please make sure the person and their organisation are legitimate. Make sure the job they're offering you is legal.
Dating And Relationship Scams
Relationship scammers often target Australians with dating and relationship scams. They target people of all ages. Some specifically target mature Australians. They use fake profiles on Australian dating websites.
- Be cautious of anyone you meet online from overseas.
- Learn the signs of a relationship scam. Know what to watch for.
- Never send money.
- If you've already given them money, don't go overseas to get it back.
- Always confirm their identity, and they're legitimate before going overseas to meet them.
Friend Or Relative-In-Need Scams
Scammers may phone, email or message your friends and family while you're travelling. Some pretend to be from a hospital and claim you need urgent medical care. Then, they ask your family for payment for your urgent medical care.
- Some scammers are hackers. They get into one of your email or social media accounts, pretend to be you and contact people you know. They often ask for money to travel home or for a medical emergency.
- Protect your passwords. Be careful overseas when logging in to public computers. Avoid public, unsecured WiFi networks.
Stay in touch with your family and friends. Contact them regularly, so they know you're safe.
Overall this article, if you have been the victim of a scam, contact local police. Always get a police report when you report a crime.