If you think scams are becoming more and more frequent, you aren’t mistaken. Scams are on the rise. According to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, the number of financial scams doubled between 2022 and 2023. Not only are there more scams, but they are becoming more convincing and therefore harder to detect. Some common scams include fraudulent text messages about parcel deliveries, fake job advertisements and messages purporting to be from government authorities, banks and even your colleagues and family members.
Scammers move quickly to respond to market conditions – for example, when millions of Australians were unable to leave their home due to government lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, the demand for pets went up, and a large number of people were scammed into paying thousands of dollars for puppies that didn’t exist. In 2024, many people are being impacted by rising living costs and the lack of affordable housing, so scam artists are preying on people who may be looking for higher-paying jobs, home loans and investment opportunities.
On top of the emotional and psychological consequences, falling for a scam can mean a person loses a considerable amount of money, and in the worst cases, their entire life savings.
What can I do if I have been scammed?
Your legal options will depend on the specific circumstances, for example, whether you know the person or company that scammed you and whether the scammer is in Australia or overseas.
In some cases, the perpetrator can be located and face both criminal charges and civil lawsuits. Victims of investment scams may have legal recourse available under consumer law and corporation laws. If the scammer is an individual living in Australia on a temporary visa, they face a high likelihood of being deported.
It may be more difficult to recover money if the victim cannot identify the scammer, but Australian courts have recognised that banks and other financial institutions may be responsible for protecting their clients against financial scams and cyber-fraud. You may be able to make a claim against your bank to recover some or all of the stolen money.
Importantly, the more quickly you act, the higher your chances are of getting your money back and preventing further financial damage.
If you think you have been scammed, the first step is to contact your bank to freeze your accounts and bank cards. Then consider speaking with a lawyer to assess whether you have any legal remedies. Our experienced commercial lawyers have advised clients who were victims of sophisticated scams and will be able to guide you through your legal options.