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The ‘art’ of scamming and how to stay safe

3-minute read

Every year, scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to extort money from Australians. Here’s how to stay alert to the ‘art’ of scamming.

If you’re like most Australians, at some stage, a text message has pinged your phone: ‘Hi Mum…’ or something about your road toll account being overdue.

For those who aren’t a Mum or don’t drive a car, it’s easy to dismiss these messages for what they are: scams.

But, what about those who are Mums and do have an account for their road tolls? It can be hard – especially with our busy lives, multitasking and other distractions – to spot scams like these and the many others out there.

That’s why, with more than a million dollars already lost to nbn impersonation scammers this year, nbn is continuing to help educate Australians about the ‘art’ of scams.

The scale of scam artists

According to new data from Scamwatch, almost 1,800 people fell victim to nbn impersonation scams from 1 January to 30 September 2023, leading to a total loss of more than $1.2 million.

Australians aged 65 and older have been reported the main target of these scams, accounting for 81 per cent of overall losses.

So, just what is an nbn impersonation scam?

It’s where a scammer gets in contact and pretends to be nbn – just like all of those ‘children’ pretending to contact their ‘Mum’.

Scammers know how to sound convincing, creating a sense of urgency, and talking about the latest products and company news to help build credibility.

Worried woman holding credit card while looking at her laptop. Another woman is in the background on a mobile phone.

For example, a scammer calls pretending to be from nbn to ‘help improve your internet speed’.

To do this, they ask you to run a speed test, download an app or software, then request access to your device.

Also known as a ‘remote access scam’, once in control, they can remotely access your banking details and start helping themselves to your money.

It's the online equivalent of handing them your bank card and PIN.

And while older Australians are typically more vulnerable to nbn impersonation scams, it’s vital for all Australians to understand how to identify a scam and avoid the potentially devastating impacts.

Losses to nbn impersonation scams

Get scam FIT with nbn (the real nbn)

In the past two years, nbn has helped more than 60,000 Australians to become scam ‘FIT’ – and we’re committed to reaching more communities every year.

This included with the help the University of the Third Age (U3A), where in-person sessions delivered by nbn aimed to equip seniors with the skills they need to stay safe from scams.

Information like our top three scam FIT tips that you can use every day:

  • F – Focus on the details: nbn will never call to say you’ve been hacked, do a speed test or ask to remotely access your devices.
  • I – Investigate: If you suspect a caller is not genuine, hang up and call their advertised number back. Or phone a friend – a problem shared is a problem solved!
  • T – Take action: Hang up on scammers and delete their texts and emails. Then, report it to Scamwatch.

Focus on the details
Take action

“While people over the age of 65 are often the most vulnerable to nbn impersonation scams, we know that given the right skills and training, there’s no reason older Australians can’t arm ourselves against scammers – and maybe teach younger Australians a thing or two about how to spot a scam,” says Glen Wall, President at the University of the Third Age.

“There’s no need to be scared of technology – once you know how to use it safely and protect yourself from harm, there is so much to be enjoyed from it.”

This sentiment is echoed by Nan Bosler AM, Emeritus President at the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association.

“What a difference the internet has made to our lives and helped us through the last few difficult years. Now we need to concentrate on using our common sense to defeat scammers!

“Look out for scam FIT workshops to learn more about the latest scams and don’t forget to report it if you think you've been targeted.”

These reports enable us and Scamwatch to understand the effectiveness of our educational messages and appreciate the scope of the problem.

Suspicious? Report it!

With only 13 per cent of victims currently reporting scam attempts, the true number of nbn impersonation scams might be higher than we think.

So, we’re urging the public to report any suspicious activity to Scamwatch.

Run by the National Anti-Scam Centre, every report helps to “make Australia a harder target for scammers and protect people from becoming victims in the future”.

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