Australians who have previously lost money to scams are being targeted by new online scams.

The way the scam works is simple, however can be quite deceiving. The scammers will contact victims randomly posing as a trusted organisation such as a law firm, fraud taskforce or a government agency and ask them for a payment upfront. In return the scammer will offer to refund the money originally taken from the victim.

In 2022 alone, Australians have made 66 reports of money recovery scams totaling $270,000, which is an increase of 301 percent compared to the same period in 2021 according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

"Scammers will ask for money and personal information before offering to 'help' the victim and will then disappear and stop all contact," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

"Money recovery scams are particularly nasty as they target scam victims again.”

"These scams can lead to significant psychological distress as many of the people have already lost money or identity information."

As well as an up-front payment they often ask victims to fill out fake paperwork or provide identity documents. Scammers may request remote access to computers or smart phones, enabling them to scam their unsuspecting victims.

Another tactic scammers use is to contact people by phone or email who haven’t actually been a victim of a scam and convince them that they’ve unknowingly been involved in one and are entitled to a settlement refund.

“If you get contacted out of the blue by someone offering to help recover scam losses for a fee, it is a scam. Hang up the phone, delete the email and ignore any further contacts,” Ms Rickard said.

“Don’t give financial details or copies of identity documents to anyone who you’ve never met in person and never give strangers remote access to your devices.”

“Scammers can be very convincing and one way to spot them is to search online for the name of the organisation who contacted you with words like ‘complaint’, ‘scam’ or ‘review’,” Ms Rickard said.

People who are a victim of a scam or identity theft should act quickly to reduce the risk of financial loss or other damages. If you think you have been scammed, please get in contact with us as soon as possible.

IDCARE is a free government-funded service which will also help to develop a specific response plan. They will never contact you out of the blue.

For more advice on how to avoid scams and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of a scam, visit our Security Advice page or the Scamwatch website. You can also follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.

12 April 2022