What to do if you have been scammed

While prevention is the best cure, sometimes fraud does strike no matter what warnings you heed and precautions you take. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, personal fraud cost $1.4 billion in 2011 in Australia alone, making it one of the nation's costliest crimes.

Although being aware of and knowing how to avoid scams and fraud is effective, it is just as, if not more, important to understand how to respond if you suspect you are a victim of fraud or a scam.

If you suspect that you may have been defrauded, the first step is to report the incidence to any one of the following organisations:

  • Your bank or financial institution;
  • Your credit card company
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC);
  • The police; or a
  • Credit reporting body.

If you believe someone has fraudulently used your personal information, you should also call illion to tell them about the identity theft and ask them to put a ban in place, which only they can do.

The initial ban period is 21 days, but can be extended if needed. During the ban period, illion may not share your credit report unless you provide consent in writing or if required by law. If a credit provider requests your credit report to assess your application for credit, illion will explain there is a ban in place and will not provide the report to the credit provider unless you have consented in writing.

Even if you are uncertain whether or not you have been exposed to a scam or fraud, you should always speak out so you can determine whether there is a cause for concern. The ABS survey revealed that half of all victims of credit card fraud were informed of the fraudulent incident by their bank or financial institution, and eight per cent informed by their credit card company.

However, by the time you wait for your credit provider to inform you of the instance of fraud, it may be too late - the fraudster may have already scammed a significant amount of money from you.

Here's what you can do if you are confronted by online fraud, financial or credit card scams, general scams and identity theft.

Online fraud

If you think that you have been the victim of online fraud such as phishing, where you have been asked for your account details, Victoria Police recommends immediately contacting ACCC's ScamWatch. In the event that you have provided your details to a scammer, you should immediately change all passwords and logins. This should be followed by contacting your financial institution.

Online shopping or auction site fraud requires residents to visit their local police station and provide copies of all emails involving the matter, including all full internet headers, as well as a copy of the auction page and the details of the offender. Transaction receipts are also required.

Financial or credit card scams

When it comes to financial scams, it is paramount to contact your financial institution as soon as possible. It is also recommended that you report the fraud to the ACCC although in most cases, your bank will have a policy in place to handle fraudulent concerns. 

General scams

We've all encountered get rich quick schemes, miracle health products, foreign lotteries and long lost inheritance letters, but may have been unsure of exactly what to do with them.

When targeted by email and mail scams such as those listed above, you should contact ScamWatch, as they will have further information about the scam and what to watch out for. Reporting such scams will also assist ScamWatch in tracking the scam and in identifying scammers.

Even if the scam is internationally based, you should also report it to the ACCC.

If the scam involved your mobile phone, you should contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), and if it relates to your health, immediately cease taking any pills and substances you think were associated with the scam.

Identity theft

Possibly the most concerning fraudulent activity, identity theft involves the theft and use of personal identifying information of an actual person, as opposed to a fictitious individual.

This is highly serious and should always be reported to local state police as well as the organisation behind the stolen identification, which can include driver's license, birth certificate, Medicare card or passport.

If your citizenship certificate, visa or other immigration document has gone missing you should contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

A stolen or lost Medicare card should be reported to Medicare Australia. If the missing document is a birth, death, marriage or change of name certificate, you should contact your state's relevant Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, while driver's licences should be reported to the relevant road authority in your state.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and trade should be contacted if you have misplaced your passport.

If you suspect that you have been the target of fraudulent activity of any kind, the Attorney-General's Department recommends obtaining a copy of your credit report and reviewing it for any unauthorised activity. Obtain a copy of your credit report »