Online Fraud

Fraud occurs when someone gains something, either some form of property or a financial advantage by means of deception.


Phishing is a technique used to gain personal information for the purpose of fraud and identity theft. Phishing attempts can take many different forms.

A common type of phishing involves sending emails that appears to be communications from a bank or financial institution hoping to trick people into supplying their online access details. A phishing email might ask an online banking customer to follow a link in order to update personal bank account details or login details. The link often leads to a webpage that looks just like the real site, but is a copy created by the offenders to collect login details. Following the link might also download a program which captures his or her banking login details and sends their details to a third party. Afterwards, these webpages will generally return the victim to the legitimate website.

It is important to remember that credit card details or login details used to access finances and services online are valuable and can be misused by others.

Reduce the risks of phishing by following these tips:
  • Never provide personal details, including customer ID or passwords, in response to an email, even if it claims to be from your bank.
  • Only access your bank's Internet banking login page by typing the address into your browser, do not click on a link from an email.
  • Be suspicious of any email from someone you do not know or trust.
  • Delete emails that you think are untrustworthy without opening them.
  • Be wary of emails that do not use your proper name, contain errors or use poor grammar.
  • Install and use anti-virus software. Keep it up-to-date.
  • Install filtering software to stop spam email or use an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that will filter spam for you.
  • Ensure security patches for your operating software are updated on a regular basis.

Reporting phishing

If you receive an email asking for your bank account details, report it to SCAMwatch. You can also report it to the business that the scam is impersonating, but be sure to use an email address or phone number that is not in the suspicious email.

If you have supplied your account details after receiving one of these emails, you should immediately change your password and report it to your financial institution so they can freeze your account and make alternate arrangements for you. Also, notify SCAMwatch about your experience.

Money mule recruitment - money transfer schemes

  • The schemes are often promoted by email and on the Internet as “work from home” opportunities. The operators offer you commission (between 7% to 15%) for receiving money into your bank account and then transferring it out again. However the money is often stolen from other people's bank accounts. Money laundering is illegal.
  • Always treat unsolicited job offers from strangers with caution, even if it appears to come from a legitimate company or job recruitment service. Why would they write to you when they have no business relationship with you?
  • Scammers often use fake email addresses mimicking real companies or set up sophisticated websites to give the appearance of legitimacy.
  • Forward suspicious job offers to WA ScamNet and delete the email.

What to do if you suspect you have fallen for a money mule scam

  • If you have received money into your account, transferred or attempted to transfer money elsewhere, immediately contact your bank or financial institution.
  • Your financial institution will start a fraud investigation and alert police if necessary.
  • The financial institution will take steps to ensure that criminals cannot transfer money out of your account. This may mean freezing or closing down your account to ensure the criminals cannot access the money.
  • If you have provided the criminals with your account details and Internet banking password, then unfortunately the criminal may be able to access your account. You should never give your Internet banking password to anyone - it must remain confidential!
  • Always make sure that you have personal firewalls, the latest anti-virus software updates and other security patches on your home personal computers, and change your banking password on a regular basis.

Internet banking fraud

Internet banking fraud is a fraud or theft committed using online technology to illegally remove money out of your account. Some of the malicious online technologies used to obtain information include spyware, trojans and viruses.

Internet banking fraud is a form of identity theft and is usually made possible through techniques such as phishing.

To avoid this type of fraud or theft:
  • Never give out your username or password.
  • Ensure a firewall and virus protection are installed and regularly updated.
  • Use a strong password, which includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Using poor password security is a major cause of computer fraud.
  • Check your bank and credit card records on a regular basis.
  • Look for any transactions that you did not authorise.
  • Contact your financial institution immediately if you notice an unauthorised transaction.

Reporting Internet banking fraud

If you are the victim of internet banking fraud, report it to your financial institution and find out about their process for investigating the incident. Once the financial institution clears you of any involvement, generally under the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Code of Conduct they will reimburse your bank account. Under Western Australian law, the financial institution is the victim of the criminal offence not you. The responsibility for reporting the crime is therefore with the financial institution.

Shopping and auction site fraud

Many people use the Internet to buy things through online shops or auctions. With some simple precautions, this can be a safe and convenient way to shop.

When you buy something from an Internet auction site, you are purchasing from an individual or company, not the auction house. Once the bidding has finished, negotiations about payment and delivery take place between the purchaser and seller. Regarding online transactions, it is advisable to select an escrow (secure payment) service yourself rather than accept advice from the seller. Do not click on links to banking or escrow services provided in emails as these may lead to fraudulent sites.

The auction house will usually adopt a policy of not taking legal responsibility for any loss that is suffered from using their service. Goods bought at auction are not covered by statutory warranties under the Trade Practices Act. The seller's only obligation is to give clear title.

It is therefore important to take care when using online auction sites. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides useful advice for using online auction sites or conducting transactions over the Internet.

The following general advice is a good start:
  • Find out as much as possible about the auction rules and the responsibilities of buyers and sellers before you bid.
  • Be aware that when you buy from an international seller, you may not be covered by Australian laws.
  • Find out as much as possible about the contact details, reputation and selling history of the business or auction seller before you buy.
  • Use registered mail for tracking your parcel.
  • Try to stick to businesses that have a physical address or telephone number on their websites, and check that these are valid.
  • Read the terms and conditions of the contract to make sure you understand them.
  • Look for a privacy policy to ensure you are comfortable with how the business collects, protects, and uses your personal information before you submit any details.
  • Make sure the site is secure and look for the tiny icon of a padlock or other evidence of security and encryption when you are submitting credit card details.
  • Do not send confidential personal or financial information by email.

Reporting shopping and auction site fraud (online sales transaction)

Australian Law Enforcement has an agreement that the state in which the seller resides is the state that will investigate these matters. Queensland Police provide detailed instructions on their website on how to report these matters directly to the relevant jurisdiction.

Please follow the instructions located at the Queensland Police website to do this.

SUPPORT: For assistance and counselling services please go to ScamNet - Help for Victims. If you need to speak to someone urgently call Lifeline on 13 11 14.