Rising scam activity is a problem right across the globe, and if you've experienced a scam you're certainly not alone. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) most recent data on personal fraud recorded that almost two in three Australians aged 15 years and over were exposed to a scam, while more than 550,000 Australians had responded to one.
Sadly, anyone can be targeted by scammers, regardless of factors such as gender, financial status, or age.
There is a prevailing thought that senior citizens and older Australians are much more frequently targeted by scammers.
However, while there are undoubtedly scams that will target older people, most scams pick a specific demographic to target.
While the ABS data shows scam exposure rate to be highest among Australians aged 55-64, at 69.7 per cent, that number is negligibly higher than for those aged 35-44 (at 69.4 per cent) and 45-54 (68.7 per cent), while those aged 25-35 experienced a comparable rate of 65.3 per cent.
The message is that scams happen across the board and yet, according to Scamwatch, 30 per cent of scams are not reported.
As to why people don't report the crime, it largely comes down to embarrassment. That feeling of "how could I have been so silly?"
But there's no shame in falling for a scam. These are criminals creating convincing ploys designed to catch you at your most vulnerable.
What's more, scams are a crime - and the victims of crime deserve our support.
However, more than half a million Aussies having experienced this particular crime lends credence to words published in a recent report presented to the UK House of Lords: "we cannot arrest our way out of this challenge."
It's on all of us to fight back.
Last week, the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) and the Australian Banking Association (ABA) announced the Scam-Safe Accord, central to which is a $100 million investment in a confirmation of payee system to be rolled out across Australian banks.
Another part of the Accord was a commitment from COBA and ABA members to join the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange, which has a Fraud Reporting Exchange (FRX) platform aimed at helping banks stop fraudsters in their tracks through fast-tracked, bank-to-bank intelligence sharing and reporting.
In line with ASIC guidance, banks are adding more friction into the payments process to mitigate scams and we do understand that this can cause some inconvenience for customers.
Friction refers to verification points in payment processes, offering the bank or the customer the opportunity to identify a potential fraudulent transaction before it is executed.
In today's digital world, quick, seamless, and secure payments are the gold standard. But the right amount of friction allows customers to trust the security of their financial institution, while at the same time helps banks to understand customer patterns and behaviours.
Beyond that, banks have a level of understanding of the processes involved in a transaction - both the legitimate and the illegal - that means we can offer insight and education.
Just as we lock our car doors to stop theft, there are common ways to help stay safe online.
Anyone asking you for money needs to be treated with caution - whether it be someone telling you about a debt you supposedly owe, or just a 'new friend' who has popped up on the internet telling you a hard-luck story that ends with "so I just need ..."
A person who gets particularly pushy when it comes to money you supposedly 'owe' should be treated with extreme caution. Simply ceasing contact may feel rude, but it's a smart idea to ignore any self-proclaimed debt collector who contacts you and then directly contact the company they claim to be from - that way, the correspondence is legitimate.
When the contact is text-based, while the email - or even linked website - may look right at first glance, be sure to look closer. Tell-tale signs that all is not well include spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, or an overly long email address or URL.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and scams are constantly evolving, so I'd encourage you to stay educated, aware, and just a little sceptical.