A Little Small Talk Goes a Big Way in Reducing Scams

Kelsy Luengen
Nov 11 · 6 min read

Between the 1st of January and the 3rd of October 2021, SCAMWATCH received around 230,000 reports of scams and reported an associated $225 million in losses across different types of scams. That’s an average of $25 million per month lost!

Even though scams are pervasive in modern society, the topic of scams is rarely something we discuss at the dinner table.

When was the last time you discussed a clever phishing email that appeared in your mailbox? Or a romance fraud and how they might have tried to groom you? How about a malicious link on social media and at what point you realised it was malicious?

For most of us it’s probably been a while. Or at the very least, it’s probably a topic that quickly turns to venting about the multitude of scam calls we’re receiving, and then brushed under the table along with the crumbs and pizza crust.

Retrieved from https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams

Why is it important to talk scams?

Talking about scams isn’t always an easy thing to do. It can be embarrassing admitting we might have fallen for one. Uncomfortable asking about other’s potential victimisation. Or maybe even daunting because we might feel we don’t know enough about cyber security to offer advice.

But it’s for these very reasons that it’s important to talk about scams with our friends and families…because falling for scams can happen to the best of us!

To increase awareness and reporting of scam-based cybercrimes, SCAMWATCH and the Scams Awareness Network are promoting from November 8th to 12th, 2021. This year, the theme is ‘Let’s Talk Scams’ and is focussed on getting people to talk to each other about the risks of scams and reduce that stigma around cyber victimisation…. So, let’s discuss three reasons why we should talk scams with everyone who’ll listen:

1. Scams can happen without us knowing

Scams can be pretty savvy nowadays, with scammers able to defraud us without any direct contact. To help set the scene, let’s look at a real-life case study presented in our with David Lacey.

About 8 months ago “Daniel” received mail to say he’d established a transaction debit card account with the local bank… which was odd because he hadn’t established one. He called his local bank to enquire and reported it. The bank told him they’d investigate, and for him to leave it with them.

A few weeks later “Daniel” then got a notice from a different bank saying he owed money on a credit card…. Which was odd because he didn’t have a credit card with this bank. So, he reported it. The bank told him they’d investigate, and for him to leave it with them.

After some time “Daniel” went to report it to the police where he was advised to contact IDCARE and report it online, instead of to a physical police station.

After contacting IDCARE, “Daniel” found out scammers had obtained a copy of “Daniel’s” driver’s licence details and were able to open lines of credit in his name, using the money for their benefit to the detriment of “Daniel’s” credit rating. Unfortunately for “Daniel”, in his state, a driver’s licence ID is for life and can’t be changed.

The story about Daniel starts at 22:40

It’s not often we talk about these types of scams and how our personal documents can enable scammers to commit identity fraud, impersonate us online, accumulate debt in our name, or target our friends and family.

The way we can limit these crime types is by highlighting the implications to our loved ones and understanding we can protect ourselves against these kinds of scams.

For example, taking our personal documentation off social media, including LinkedIn. Deleting copies of these documents in our email sent box in the event of a breach and hackers getting access to these. Or not sending them to, what appear to be legitimate, job ads online*.

The more vigilant we are with this information, and the more we highlight the implications to our loved ones, the better we can protect ourselves against these kinds of scams.

2. An outside perspective can highlight the real intention

A growing body of threats are coming from romance scams. These are often longer-term engagements where fraudsters try to manipulate our emotions to then be their money mule (transferring or laundering money on their behalf) or sending our own money/bitcoin to them.

Romance scams can target anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. Often, however, these romance scams target people who may be in isolation or people who are seeking companionship.

Due to the longer-term nature of romance scams, an outsider’s perspective may be helpful. An outsider perspective may be able to flag if something sounds suspicious and help us identify any warning signs. For example, an outsider perspective may flag that it’s unusual for someone we’re dating online to never have the time or internet connection to Zoom or Skype. Or they may question the need for the money to go through your bank account and changed into Bitcoin rather than normal business finance channels.

Always talk to your friends and family about people you meet online and ask them if they’ve met anyone lately. Be open about your online connections and listen carefully to what they tell you about their new romantic online connections.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

3. Destigmatisation helps us better understand cybercrime

For many cybercrimes (and traditional crime types), victims do not report the crimes committed against them. Often victims feel embarrassed about falling for scams and feel their family, friends and even police will judge them. Other times, victims feel nothing can be done about the crime or don’t know where to go to report it.

However, by not talking about our experience with cyber victimisation or reporting scams, we continue a cycle of stigmatisation.

To help reduce stigma around victimisation, and create more awareness about cyber scams, ensure you use the TALK method. Talk openly about scams you’ve seen or fallen victim to. Ask your friends and family about any scams they may be seeing. Listen and be judgement free if someone opens up to you. Keep the conversation going about scams so we can combine our collective knowledge!

Fraudsters can get the best of us, and no one is infallible. No one should feel embarrassed if they’ve become a victim of cybercrime. No one should feel embarrassed to tell someone about it. No one should feel embarrassed to report it.

What can I do to help?

By talking to your friends and family we can all work together to increase awareness about scams, provide an outsider’s perspective on our online actions, and reduce the stigma victims may feel in reporting and sharing their stories. Together we can all become more cyber aware and empowered!

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