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Impersonation scams

16/11/2023

Stay informed and stay safe.

Impersonation scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and anyone can be targeted. In this deceptive practice, scammers act as trusted businesses, family members or friends to steal your finances and personal details.

Here's what you need to know about impersonation scams, how to spot them, and how to protect yourself.

What is an impersonation scam?

Imagine receiving a call from what appears to be a government official or getting an email from a trusted retailer—only it isn't them. That's an impersonation scam. Here, criminals masquerade as reputable entities to trick you into surrendering sensitive information or money.

These scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods to deceive potential victims. They now possess the technology to disguise their calls with authentic-looking phone numbers, blend fraudulent texts seamlessly into genuine conversation threads, and clone official websites to mirror those of legitimate organisations.

Their emails—complete with forged sender addresses—are designed to mimic trusted contacts, while social media platforms are exploited as they create profiles using real names, photos, and personal details of individuals or companies.

Scammers may even present falsified documents to bolster their credibility, and they often possess or pretend to have personal information about you—all in a calculated effort to appear legitimate and trustworthy.

Tell-tale signs of an impersonation scam

  • Unexpected requests: A message pops up, urging you to verify a payment you don't recall or to click on a link.
  • Pressure tactics: You're threatened with arrest or other serious consequences unless you act swiftly, typically by transferring funds.
  • Suspicious details: An organisation you know asks for payment to a new account, or a family member suddenly texts from a new number asking for financial help.
  • Too good to be true: Offers promise high returns for little risk or jobs that seem to pay excessively for minimal work.

How to protect yourself

In the fight against impersonation scams, your best defence is a proactive and questioning mindset.

Pause and verify

When you receive an unexpected request or message:

  • Take a moment. Even if the request seems urgent, pause. Scammers prey on hasty reactions.
  • Verify independently. Contact the organisation using official channels to confirm the request's legitimacy.

Be cautious of links

Links in emails and texts are the hooks scammers use:

  • Scrutinise before you click. Hover over links to see the actual URL or find official websites through a search engine.
  • Update your knowledge. Stay informed about the latest phishing techniques to recognise suspicious links.

Stand firm against threats

When faced with threats or high-pressure tactics:

  • Recognise coercion. Legitimate businesses and authorities do not demand immediate action through threats.
  • Cut off contact. Hang up the phone or stop emailing or texting. If they persist, block the number or email address.

What to do if you've been scammed

Act without delay:

  • Alert your financial institution. Blocking any ongoing or future transactions is crucial.
  • Seek support. Contact IDCARE for identity and cyber support, and consider financial counselling if debts arise due to a scam.
  • Raise awareness. Report the scam to the National Anti-Scam Centre via Scamwatch.gov.au and inform your social circle.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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