I've been scammed - help for victims

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If you think you have been scammed please seek assistance where you need it.  In the first instance, please contact WA ScamNet to report the scam and for assistance.

If the scam relates to a product or a service, you may have rights under the Australian Consumer Law which can help your case, even if you bought it online

The following WA ScamNet pages provide useful advice for protecting yourself against scammers:

In some cases, the scam is complex and ellaborate.  It can seem so real and victims are caught out giving many thousands of dollars to help their 'friend'.  The advice below may help and WA ScamNet provides a list of personal and or financial counselling links on the help for victims page.  

Victim support - fraud

If you are a victim of fraud you may find personal and/or financial counselling useful. Some of the services listed on our WA ScamNet help for victims page are free and using others you may be eligible for a rebate.

You can also find a private psychologist via the Australian Psychological Society. If you want to access the Medicare rebates for psychological counselling you will need to choose a psychologist who is a registered Medicare psychology provider. There is a link on the Society’s website that will provide you with this list. 

The State Government’s Victim Support Service has a useful website which includes an online directory of service providers.  The website explains some of the effects crime can have on a person and will help you understand your rights within the criminal justice systems.

How to avoid being scammed 

Recognising you have been a victim of consumer fraud can be a devastating personal experience not only in terms of the financial loss but also a sense of betrayal and a loss of trust. 

There are a number of simple precautions, however, to help you do not become a victim again.

It is very important you now ensure there is no malicious software on your computer, change your email address and home/mobile phone numbers and close or amend your Facebook or other social media accounts and limit who can access them. If you believe your bank details may have been passed on you should also consider contacting your bank.

In future do not follow any links or call numbers supplied to you in an email. It takes a minute or two more to look up the number in the Yellow Pages or another independent directory service but this may save you following a scammer’s false lead and prevent heartache later on. 

Reconsider the personal information you share and post on social/business networking services. Scammers use publicly available information to identify potential victims to groom. Review your social media profile and delete and/or amend your Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter or other accounts so that you do not keep getting requests from individuals associated with the fraud. 

If you are reconnecting with your real friends and family online, ensure your security settings on Facebook and other social media are set at the highest privacy level and set a reminder for yourself so that you check them every three to six months. If possible, do not include your own photo on the page; instead use an icon or image of an object to represent yourself. Using a derivation of your name, or a nickname, may also help you to manage your online profile and avoid reconnecting with scammers. 

In future do not accept social networking friend or follow requests, or respond to emails, from people you have not met or your friends and family cannot vouch for – the best way to keep scammers out of your life is to never let them in. 

How to protect yourself

  • Do not respond to out-of-the-blue social media messages from strangers, such as a friend request on Facebook.
  • Be on your guard if someone you meet on an online dating site asks you to move the conversation over to email or instant messaging.
  • Remember just because someone shares personal photos, it does not mean the pictures are of them – scammers often steal other people’s photos. Run a Google Image search on photos and search words in their description to check if they’re the real deal. 
  • If you can find out the IP address of an Internet user, you can get an idea what part of the country or world they're in by using an IP lookup tool.
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking talking to somebody on the phone regularly means you know them and they are who they say they are.
  • Be concerned if a person refuses to chat realtime via a webcam and be mindful that even Skype is not scammer proof – watch out for pre-recorded videos.
  • Do not send money on the promise you will receive a large lottery win, inheritance, gold, or money from a disused bank account. 
  • Alarm bells should ring if someone you do not know personally (have not met face-to-face) requests money, particularly by a wire transfer service such as Western Union or direct bank transfers.
  • Be wary of anyone who confesses their love for you after a short amount of time and has a sudden crisis where they need your financial assistance.
  • Seek advice from trusted family members or friends if you are being asked by an online friend to send money overseas.
  • Before travelling to meet on an online friend overseas be 100 per cent sure the journey is safe – check with police and register with Smart Traveller.
  • Scammers can be patient – often schemes have been running for six to 12 months before any cash is requested and in most cases victims report that cash requests are small in the beginning.
  • Do not send money in the hope of recovering what you have sent. If the money is rightfully yours it shouldn’t cost anything to recover it.

Take action checklist

  • Don’t panic or ignore it.
  • Call our investigators as soon as possible if you have received a letter from Project Sunbird on 1300 30 40 54.
  • Cease all contact with the scammers immediately. Do not tell the scammers you have been in touch with Consumer Protection or WA Police.
  • Change your email address if the scammer is aware of it.
  • Contact your bank if you believe your account details have been provided. 
  • Contact relevant agencies to let them know your account and/or personal details are no longer confidential.
  • Keep an eye on bank statements in future. Consider getting a credit history report.
  • Change your home/mobile number if the scammer is aware of it.
  • Delete or amend your current LinkedIn, Facebook, Skype and other social media accounts. When you want to re-establish your accounts, do so without a personal photo, include little or no personal information and use a nickname instead of your full name.
  • Check your social media account security settings are set at the highest privacy level and check the setting periodically. Review your online profile (Google your own name) and delete information as appropriate. Get a professional virus scan on your computer.
  • Request a special category enrolment on the State or Federal electoral roll which will ensure your address is not shown. More information is available from the Western Australian Electoral Commission.

Repeat victimisation

Unfortunately there seems to be a trend where once a relationship or investment fraud victim tells the fraudster the game is up, there is a danger they will be targeted by a secondary scam.

Usually victims targeted in secondary scams are contacted by people claiming to be connected to the persona used in the original fraud, such as immigration staff or other officials requesting money associated with the previous scam. Occasionally there may be new declarations of love or offers of investment or even restitution for the money lost. 

Some bogus stories which have recently come to light have included:

  • offers of scam compensation from law enforcement or government agencies even though no such scheme exists;
  • a supposed doctor calling to alert a fraud victim that the scammer had attempted suicide and needed medical bills paid or he would not survive;
  • a woman contacting a fraud victim to explain she is the scammer’s wife and she wants to leave but needs money to do so; and 
  • claims made to a fraud victim that the scammer is facing jail unless more money is sent.

Help for victims of fraud (Project Sunbird)

General advice to help you identify and avoid scams and fraud.  Includes contact information for support services.

Download Help for Victims of Fraud fact sheet

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