Scammers are targeting previous victims with a spate of ‘money recovery scams’, often posing as law enforcement in order to trick victims into handing over even more money as part of their supposed ongoing investigation.
Recovery scammers pose as trusted organisations such as fraud taskforces, government agencies and law firms. They aim to elicit an up-front payment from victims in return for help with recovering their lost money. Many scammers rely on official-looking websites, providing fake testimonials from other victims they have supposedly helped.
Australians have lost more than $270,000 to money recovery scams so far this year, an increase of 301 per cent, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch.
Scammers ask for money and personal information before offering to help the victim but, once they have the money, they disappear and cease all contact, says ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.
“Money recovery scams are particularly nasty as they target scam victims again,” Rickard says.
“These scams can lead to significant psychological distress, as many of the people have already lost money or identity information.”
Along with an up-front payment, scammers often ask victims to fill out fake paperwork and provide identity documents – putting them at risk of identity theft.
Another tactic is to contact people who haven’t actually been a victim of a scam, and convince them that they’ve unknowingly been involved in one and are entitled to a settlement refund.
People should never give financial details or copies of identity documents to anyone who they have never met in person, nor should they grant strangers remote access to their devices, Rickard says.
“If you get contacted out of the blue by someone offering to help recover scam losses for a fee, it is a scam,” Rickard says. “Hang up the phone, delete the email and ignore any further contacts.”
“Scammers can be very convincing and one way to spot them is to search online for the name of the organisation who contacted you with words like ‘complaint’, ‘scam’ or ‘review’.”
People who have lost money to a scam should contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible. Financial institutions may be able to find where the money was sent, block the scam accounts and help others to avoid sending money to scammers.
If people are not happy with the response from their financial institution, they can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority – a free and independent dispute resolution service.