#IsThisForReal – Scam awareness for Indigenous Communities


When people think about scams, they often think of the very obvious scams where you receive an email telling you that you have an inheritance worth millions and all you need to do is spend thousands to unlock it and you will be a millionaire.

The reality is, scams are perpetrated more and more by experienced scammers who are incredibly good at playing upon peoples’ vulnerabilities and pretending to be someone they are not.

The scams that have being targeting Indigenous people and communities are particularly insidious. They are intricately crafted scams by individuals who understand exactly who they are targeting and what will have the greatest success rate.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) knows all too well the intricate scams that are targeting people in this country and state that anyone can fall for a scam – it doesn’t matter how old or young, educated or your demographic – we can all fall for scams.

It is the scams that are targeting Indigenous people and communities which are particularly frightening in their malevolence.

It is Scam Awareness Week and the ACCC has released a report which details that Indigenous people have lost over $1.7 million to scams. The ACCC’s ‘Scamwatch’ website received 1,810 reports in 2017 from Indigenous people, with significant monetary loss on average of nearly $6,500, an increase by 14 percent on the previous year.

ACCC Deputy Chairman Delia Rickard has said that “nearly one in every two Indigenous people who reported one of these scams to the ACCC lost money,” and that, “these scams are very convincing which makes them hard to spot. In the case of online shopping scams, the scammer creates a very believable looking online store purporting to sell well-known products great prices. It always pays to do a Google search about an online store before you make a purchase to see if it might be a scam site.”

With investment scams, the scammer will start with a cold call to their victim promising low risk investments for very high returns. They will spend months grooming their victims and even use flashy brochures and websites to give them an air of legitimacy. Once a victim invests, they’re quickly convinced to put more and more money in. As soon as the victim tries to cash in on their investment, the scammer quickly disappears,” Ms Rickard said.

The two most prevalent scams where Indigenous people have lost money are dating scams and employment scams, which demonstrates the vulnerabilities being preyed upon by scammers.

To help reduce the impact of scams on Indigenous peoples, the ACCC engaged in targeted scams awareness outreach in nine Indigenous communities in Darwin, Katherine and Central Australia. Since the outreach, ACCC reports that they have seen a reduction of funds sent from these communities to overseas scammers of 40 percent, a significant achievement in light of the increase in scam activities and increased sophistication of scams.

Ms Rickard has said that the main ways that scammers target individuals is through telephone and email but there has been an increase in social media targeting, which is why the ‘ACCC – Your Rights Mob – Indigenous Consumers’ Facebook page is a good resource in getting the word out to communities on how to identify and avoid scams.

Ms Rickard said that “the targeting of Indigenous people is particularly concerning as they are telephoning Indigenous people and pretending to be government departments alleging debt and that a warrant is out for the individual’s arrest and that, if a certain action such as paying money into a particular bank account is not done, then the individual would be cut off from benefits and/or arrested.”

Given that there is a considerable number of Indigenous people vulnerable to this heinous scam, it is critical that we raise awareness in communities on how to spot and avoid scammers.

Ms Rickard said that scammers want either money or your personal information so it is important to stay vigilant and understand that government departments or financial institutions would never ask for personal information over email.

The ACCC is committed to continuing outreach and educational programs to empower Indigenous communities to spot, avoid and report scams they encounter,” Ms Rickard said.

If you think that you have been scammed, please contact the ACCC to make a report.

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