Sinister scams you need to watch out for.
Sinister scams you need to watch out for.

The elaborate scams targeting everyday Australians

Some scams are more obvious than others.

Most people know not to respond when a Nigerian prince emails you and offers to send you his riches, but scammers are always coming up with elaborate new tricks making it hard to know what is genuine and what isn't.

Technology has made it a lot easier for people with sinister intentions to impersonate company officials or law enforcement and scare victims into giving up vital information.

Here are some of the more elaborate scams that you need to watch out for this year.

FAKE CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

Reports of Australians being caught out by celebrity endorsement scams increased by a staggering 400 per cent last year, with people losing a huge amount of money.

These scams often appear as online advertisements or promotional stories on social media or a seemingly legitimate, trustworthy website and include celebrities like Delta Goodrem, Kyle Sandilands, Lisa Wilkinson, Meghan Markle and Shark Tank's Steve Baxter.

The ads include fake quotes and doctored images of well-known personalities promoting products such as skin care creams, weight loss pills or investment schemes.

The scam works by getting people to sign up to a "free trial" of the product, resulting in the consumer handing over their credit card details. The trial often has strict terms and conditions such as having to return the product within a near impossible time frame, and an automatically renewing subscription that is difficult to cancel.

These terms are often only visible on the document that arrives with the product, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Most people lost between $100 and $500 and in one case, a victim lost more than $50,000 through fake celebrity endorsement of an investment scheme," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

TERRIFYING ROBO CALLS

A series of disturbing phone calls have been made to Australian residents claiming the recipient has had multiple court cases filed against them and is at risk of being arrested.

The robocall starts out by informing the victim that a "lawsuit case is getting filed under your name" and they must call the number 6102 0472 to resolve the issue.

"The moment you receive this message I want you to get back to me," the voice says in the message.

"If we don't hear from you we have to issue an arrest warrant under your name and get you arrested. So get back to me as soon as possible."

The scammer will use intimidating language to scare the victim into complying, often telling them to buy gift cards like iTunes or Google Play to 'pay' the tax debt. They may also get people to send money by other methods like Bitcoin ATMs or prepaid credit cards.

Police have warned that any call of this nature was not to be trusted as any legitimate business or government agencies would not contact you in this way.

BANK SCAM THAT DRAINS YOUR ACCOUNT

Last year thousands of Australians were caught out by sophisticated con that allows hackers to drain their victim's bank account before they have any idea what is going on.

The scammers impersonate police or staff from well-known businesses like Telstra, NBN or Microsoft and tell their targets a very believable and rehearsed story about why they need to access their computer.

They use scare tactics to trick victims into giving away their personal information by telling them they are part of a team that's tracking down "scammers" or "hackers".

The target is informed that their computer has been compromised by hackers and is being used to scam other innocent people.

They then say they need access to the victims computer and online banking to help trap the scammer.

By August last year there were 8000 reports of this scam recorded by the ACCC, with Aussies being duped out of $4.4 million.

Scammers will pose as staff from well-known businesses or even as police to trick their victims.
Scammers will pose as staff from well-known businesses or even as police to trick their victims.

USING CUTE PUPPIES TO LURE VICTIMS

Scammers are targeting dog lovers by setting up fake ads pretending to sell adorable puppies, choosing breeds that they know are highly sought after.

Prospective dog owners have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to these scams, but there are some key signs that give them away.

For example, scammers will often claim that they have moved interstate or overseas and that you will need to pay for transport or medical costs before the puppy can be delivered.

Another common lie involves the scammer claiming that the puppy is overseas and it can't be delivered unless a payment is made due to customs or quarantine issues.

"If you hear these tales from a 'seller', stop all communication with them. The puppy, sadly, isn't real and if you make those payments, you'll lose your money," Ms Rickard said.

Scammers often use picture of pedigree breeds to lure people in. Picture: Consumer Affairs Victoria
Scammers often use picture of pedigree breeds to lure people in. Picture: Consumer Affairs Victoria

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