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Indigenous Australians lose millions to scammers

28 August 2020

Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is advising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers to protect themselves after it was revealed they had lost millions of dollars to scammers.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said Indigenous Australians last year reported more than 2,700 scams resulting in $2.1 million in losses, and that figure was expected to increase substantially as scam activity has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People in Indigenous communities need to be careful about who they share their personal information with, both online and over the phone,” Mr Bauer said.

“Remind your friends and family that if someone asks for their personal details over the phone, they can hang up and call them back using details from their official website.”

Mr Bauer said investment scams were the most financially harmful scams affecting Indigenous Australians, with more than $1.1 million lost in 2019.

“This was followed by dating and romance scams with nearly half a million in losses,” he said.

“Scams are becoming increasingly complex and it’s easy to be caught off guard by a text message, email or phone call.”

The OFT is one of the agencies responsible for the national consumer protection regulators’ Indigenous Consumer Strategy.

“If someone calls offering an investment or ways to make easy money, be on guard. If something sounds too good to be true then it probably is,” Mr Bauer said.

“Two Indigenous Queenslanders recently lost $5,000 and $6,000 respectively when they paid for vehicles after responding to online advertisements. Whilst payment was made, and vehicles were to be delivered, the vehicles did not turn up.

“Stop and take time to think things through. Don’t let anyone pressure you or members of your family into making quick decisions.”

For more information about scams, including how to report them, visit the OFT website or Scamwatch website.