Protect yourself from Payment Impersonator Scams

Impersonation scams are clever schemes with scammers employing a variety of tactics to appear helpful initially, helping with anything from computer viruses to financial advice or even claiming to be representatives from your bank. They create a false sense of urgency and pressure you into taking immediate action, like sharing sensitive information, clicking on dubious links, or making payments for supposed debts.

A common form of impersonator scam is the payment redirection scam.  This scam involves a scammer impersonating a business or its employees and sending an email that appears very similar to one you’re expecting.  The scammer will intercept business emails with invoices attached and change the payment details (BSB and account number) before onforwarding to the intended recipient.  The email may appear to have been sent from a legitimate business email address, however the scammer has actually sent the email. The scammers are anticipating you will make the payment without verifying the bank details and the payment will be paid into the scammers account.    

Here are some case studies from the ACCC’s Scamwatch, from real victims of payment impersonators scams:  

Case Study*

I paid the deposit for a car securely through the car dealership’s official website.  I was then emailed an invoice for the rest which I paid thinking it was genuine. When I went to pick up my new car, I found out that the invoice was a scam and the dealership had only received my deposit. I lost $35,000.

Case Study*

A couple lost more than $800,000 while finalising a property settlement.  The couple were emailed transfer details from their solicitor's email address, but unbeknown to them the bank details were incorrect and the money they transferred went to a scammer.  

To protect yourself from falling victim to a payment redirection scam:

  • Take your time. Before making a payment, confirm the account details by phone using an existing phone number known to you. Do not use the phone number supplied on the invoice as this may have also been altered.
  • Be alert. If the account details or how to pay instructions are different to the ones you may have previously used.
  • Be conscious. Watch out for spelling or grammatical errors in the email or invoice, as this could indicate a scammer has made changes to the original.
  • Be active. If you have paid an invoice or provided account details to someone you think might be a scammer contact us immediately.  

By staying informed and proactive, you can safeguard yourself against the growing threat of impersonator scams.  

*Source:  ACCC Scamwatch.  This case study is based on an anonymous report into ACCC’s Scamwatch.  

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