Scams Awareness Week 2023: Unmasking Impersonation Scams

27 November, 2023

Scammers are always on the lookout for new ways to deceive and defraud unsuspecting individuals. In 2023, Scams Awareness Week brings a critical focus on one of the most insidious forms of scams: impersonation scams. 

Impersonation scams involve criminals disguising themselves as trusted entities or individuals, with the sole intention of stealing your money or personal information. These scams can take various forms, from fake text messages and emails to phone calls and even social media interactions. As technology advances, impersonation scams have become increasingly sophisticated, making it crucial for everyone to be vigilant and aware of the key signs and methods to protect themselves.

Understanding Impersonation Scams

An impersonation scam is essentially a scheme where scammers pose as trusted businesses, friends, or family members to manipulate you into divulging sensitive information or parting with your hard-earned money. These scammers employ a range of methods and can reach you through various channels, including text messages, websites, social media, email, and phone calls. To make their impersonations more convincing, they often pretend to be government officials, renowned companies, charities, celebrities, law enforcement agencies, or even your loved ones.

The Evolving Methods of Impersonation

Impersonation scams have evolved, becoming harder to identify and protect against:

  1. Spoofed Phone Calls: Scammers use technology to make their calls appear as if they are coming from a legitimate phone number.

  2. Text Message Deception: Scammers send texts that appear within the same conversation thread as legitimate messages, making it challenging to spot fakes.

  3. Cloned Websites: Legitimate organisation websites are cloned to look authentic, tricking visitors into sharing personal data.

  4. Fake Emails: Scammers send emails with deceptive sender addresses to mimic trusted sources.

  5. Impersonated Social Media Profiles: Scammers create fake social media profiles using another person or organisation's details and images.

  6. Forged Documents: Documents are forged to make you believe you are dealing with genuine individuals or businesses.

  7. Impersonation scammers often have or claim to have some information about you, which they use to gain your trust and appear legitimate.

Recognising Impersonation Scams

To protect yourself from impersonation scams, it's crucial to be aware of the key signs:

  1. You receive a message asking you to click on a link that leads to a webpage requesting your personal information, username, or password.

  2. Urgent requests for personal details or money should raise a red flag.

  3. A supposedly legitimate organisation claims there has been an unauthorised transaction or asks you to confirm a payment you didn't make.

  4. A business requests you to use a different bank account and BSB than the one you've used previously.

  5. You're contacted by someone claiming to be from a government department or law enforcement, threatening you with arrest, deportation, or requesting money.

  6. Offers that sound too good to be true, such as sales, investments, or job opportunities, are often scams.

Protecting Yourself from Impersonation Scams

Protecting yourself from impersonation scams requires vigilance and caution:

  1. Question Identities: Don't automatically assume the person you're dealing with is who they claim to be. Take your time to verify their identity.

  2. Avoid Clicking on Links: Avoid clicking on links in text messages, especially if they request personal information.

  3. Cut Contact with Threatening Individuals: Immediately disconnect from anyone who threatens or intimidates you.

  4. Beware of Attachments: Don't open or download any attachments or apps if instructed, as they can install malicious software on your device.

  5. "Stop, Think, Protect": Remember this mantra—stop and think before giving money or personal information to anyone. Act quickly if something seems off.

How to Verify Identities

To verify the identity of the person or organisation you're dealing with:

  1. Independently Verify: Use contact details from the official website or authenticated portal to contact the person or organisation.

  2. Cross-Check Numbers: If someone claims to have a new phone number, try calling them on their existing number or send a unique question only they can answer to the new number.

  3. Watch for Variations: Look out for slight variations in caller or sender IDs, and be cautious of dots, special characters, or numbers in web addresses.

  4. Do Your Research: Before sending money, research people and organisations you've only dealt with online, including searching for the term 'scam' alongside their name.

  5. Check Registration Details: Confirm the registration details of organisations through official registers like the Moneysmart financial advisors register and the Australian charity register for charities.

Victim Support

If you fall victim to an impersonation scam, there is support available:

  1. Contact Your Bank: Report the scam to your bank or card provider immediately, asking them to stop any transactions.

  2. IDCARE: Reach out to IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand's national identity and cyber support service, for assistance in limiting the damage. They offer free support at 1800 595 160 or through their website.

  3. Financial Counseling: If the scam causes financial difficulties, consult a financial counsellor. Moneysmart provides a list of free and confidential services to help you regain financial stability.

  4. Emotional Support: Experiencing a scam can be emotionally challenging. Reach out to friends, family, or organisations like Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) if you need someone to talk to.

  5. Inform Others: Share your experience with friends and family to help protect them from falling victim to scams.

Reporting Impersonation Scams

Reporting scams is crucial to protecting others and disrupting scammers:

  1. National Anti-Scam Centre: Report scams to the National Anti-Scam Centre via once you've secured your details.

  2. Help Stop Scammers: By reporting scams, you assist in stopping scammers and protecting potential victims. It's estimated that 30% of scams go unreported.

  3. Providing Information: Your report helps the National Anti-Scam Centre identify the most harmful scams and understand how scammers operate.

  4. Collaboration with Law Enforcement: With your consent, information can be shared with law enforcement and regulators to aid investigations and prosecutions.

  5. Report Anonymously: You can make reports to Scamwatch anonymously or on behalf of another person. Additionally, you can file an official report to the police online.

  6. Remove Scam Content: Report scams on the digital platform where you encountered them to assist with content removal.

The Role of Businesses in Scam Prevention

Businesses are not immune to impersonation scams and they can suffer severe consequences, including reputational damage and financial losses. Scammers often impersonate well-known brands by creating fake websites and communications that closely resemble the real thing. If your business becomes the target of scammers, Scamwatch offers guidance to support you in dealing with the impersonation of your business online.

Scams Awareness Week 2023 aims to raise awareness of impersonation scams and equip individuals and businesses with the knowledge and tools needed to protect themselves. By being vigilant, questioning identities, and reporting scams, we can collectively work to prevent scammers from succeeding in their malicious endeavours. 

CWCU is here to help you in the battle against impersonation scammers. If you suspect anything suspicious happening with your banking, please get in touch.