Fraud and scams

Learn about different frauds and scams, and how you can report them.

What is fraud?

Fraud is best described as any deceitful or intentionally dishonest conduct, involving acts or omissions or the making of false statements, orally or in writing, with the objective of obtaining money or other benefit from a person/organisation for him/herself or another, or evading a liability.

In simple terms, using deceit to obtain an advantage (property or financial) or to avoid an obligation.

Defrauding people of money is the most common type of fraud.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has primary law enforcement responsibility for investigating serious or complex fraud and corruption against the Commonwealth. The fraud and anti-corruption business area enhances the AFP response to serious and complex fraud against the Commonwealth, corruption by Australian Government employees, foreign bribery and complex identity crime involving the manufacture and abuse of credentials.

What is a scam?

A scam, or confidence trick, is an attempt to intentionally mislead a person or persons usually with the goal of financial or other gain.

Scams try to exploit human weaknesses, such as greed, dishonesty, vanity, and also virtues like honesty and compassion. In a traditional confidence trick, a person is led to believe that he or she will be able to win money by doing a task.

For further information regarding scams, go to SCAMwatch(opens in a new window).

SCAMwatch is a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). SCAMwatch provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

More information

Visit Stay Smart Online, the Australian Government's online safety and security website, designed to help everyone understand the risks and simple steps we can take to protect our personal and financial information online.

Reporting fraud

Listed below are common types of fraud and the appropriate investigative authority. See the Fraud Report form

Fraud Report Form
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(opens in a new window)

This includes fraud relating to credit cards, loans, electronic funds transfers, cheque, ATM and mortgages.
Report this type of fraud to the bank or financial institution, and Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)(opens in a new window).

Investment or share trading fraud

Report this type of fraud to the Australian Security and Investment Commission(opens in a new window) by visiting MoneySmart in a new window), calling 1300 300 630, or report to ACSC(opens in a new window). Any information such as company name, location and contact details will assist with subsequent investigations.

Lawyer fraud (barrister and solicitor)

Report this type of fraud to the Legal Services Board(opens in a new window).

Accountant fraud

Report this type of fraud to your local police station.

Real estate agency fraud

Report this type of fraud to Consumer Affairs Victoria(opens in a new window).

Superannuation fraud

Report this type of fraud to the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority(opens in a new window) (APRA).

Telecommunication fraud

Report this type of fraud to the relevant service provider.

Employee fraud

Report this type of fraud to your local police station

Work cover fraud

Report this type of fraud to WorkSafe Victoria(opens in a new window)

Internet auction fraud and overseas advanced fee fraud

Report this type of fraud to ACSC(opens in a new window).

Foreign bribery

Foreign bribery includes providing or offering a benefit to a public official, or causing a benefit to be provided or offered to a foreign public official, where the benefit is not legitimately due. 

Report this to Australian Federal Police(opens in a new window).

Types of scams and the appropriate investigative authority

Local scams (door to door scams)

Report this to Consumer Affairs of Victoria(opens in a new window) or phone 1300 558 181.

Scams from interstate or overseas

Report this to ACSC(opens in a new window).

Financial and investment scams

Report this to ACSC(opens in a new window).

Banking and credit card scams (phoney fraud alerts or 'phishing' scams)

Report this to your bank/financial institution, as well as ACSC(opens in a new window).

Spam emails

Report this to ACSC(opens in a new window).

For further information regarding scams, go to in a new window).

Reporting to police

In many cases where a person loses money, it will not be a criminal, but a civil matter. Particularly when a matter involves breaches of contract or non-payment of debts.

Police cannot investigate civil matters. Police only investigate criminal matters in order to charge offenders and place evidence before a court.

Civil action is the most appropriate method of recovering money and it is recommended a person consults with a solicitor if this is the case. If the complaint and supporting information supports a finding that a criminal offence may have been committed, then the matter will be referred for investigation.

To report a matter with police, it is useful to gather the following information.

  • complainant's details – including name, date of birth, age, address, phone number, email and employment details
  • summary of allegations – prepare a summary of events in chronological order that forms the basis of your complaint. Include times, dates, places and any conversations or interaction with suspect regarding the complaint
  • evidence – include a brief description of the evidence which support the events described
  • suspect/offender – if you suspect a particular individual/s, provide details such as date of birth, age, address, phone number, email, vehicle registration number and employment details
  • witnesses – provide details of any witnesses, including name, address, phone number and a brief summary why this person is a witness
  • document/exhibits – provide copies (copies only) of documents or exhibits which support the complaint. This may include, but not limited to, banking records, business records, receipts, contracts, invoices, internet content, phone records, and audit reports. Please note, original exhibits should be handled with clean surgical or fabric gloves and with care, to prevent the loss of forensic evidence. Ensure each exhibit is stored in separate bags
  • action taken against suspect – provide information of any discipline or civil action taken against the suspect/s

Corporate/Business complaints

ACSC accepts reports made on behalf of businesses, organisations and corporations.

If you wish to report another type of fraud associated with a corporation or business or organisation, or a matter that involves a high degree of complexity where Victoria Police would be the appropriate investigative authority then please read and complete the Victoria Police Fraud Report Form before reporting the fraud to the police.

This form, along with copies of evidence, will be used by police in assessing and investigating a complaint.

Credit card fraud

How does it happen?

Credit card fraud can occur in a number of ways. It is possible for someone to:

  • steal your card and make purchases by forging your signature
  • use your credit card details to pay for goods or services over the phone or internet
  • trick you into revealing your access codes for your account and then making internet purchases
  • capture your credit card details with hidden devices during an ATM or EFTPOS transaction (ATM credit card skimming) or your PIN may be seen by someone in the queue (shoulder surfing)
  • skim your credit cards at retail outlets or restaurants, resulting in a clone card being made and used by a fraudster

How to protect yourself?

There are steps you can take to minimise the risk of fraud and protect your identity.

If you do not, your financial institution may hold you responsible for any losses that occur due to fraudulent transactions. If you have lost your credit card or had it stolen, contact your financial institution, and be advised whether you need to report it to the ACSC(opens in a new window).

ACSC is a secure reporting service for cybercrime incidents that may be in breach of Australian law.

Certain reports will be directed to Australian law enforcement and government agencies for further investigation. The more information you enter into a report, the better equipped agencies will be to consider your matter.

The public can also access education and prevention information from the ACSC(opens in a new window).

The following tips will help you to increase the security of your card and account details.

Be aware of general security

  • keep your card safe and secure at all times
  • secure your mail by locking your letter box
  • tell your institution as soon as you realise your card has been stolen or lost, or if you think it may have been used without your authorisation
  • never lend your card to another person
  • sign the back of a new card as soon as you receive it
  • consider picking up a new or replacement card in person

Guard your PINs and passwords

  • keep your PINs and passwords secret and strictly to yourself
  • if you have to write down PINs and passwords, disguise them as alternative information. Keep the record in a different place from your credit cards and somewhere where it is not likely to be stolen or lost at the same time as your credit card
  • choose PINs and passwords that are hard to guess. Avoid obvious giveaways such as your date of birth, part of your name, address or other things thieves could easily guess if they know you or steal your bag

Take care with online transactions

  • do not store internet banking passwords in an undisguised form on your computer if you use your card for goods and services online
  • send your card details only through secure internet sites
  • be fussy about sending personal details to an online business – question if they are genuinely necessary to use the site

Check your history

  • conduct regular checks/reconciliations of your credit/debit card account records
  • contact your institution immediately if there are transactions listed that you do not understand or dispute
  • a contact number should appear on your account statement

Watch your card when it is out of reach

  • when paying bills at restaurants or other locations, keep your eye on your card at all times
  • do not give your card to a waiter and allow it to be taken away
  • be wary of employees who swipe your card on more than one card reader

Banking fraud 

Reporting internet banking fraud

If you receive an email asking for your bank account details, report it to the ACSC(opens in a new window).

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 Victorian 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.

If you also report to ACSC(opens in a new window), this will give Australian law enforcement a national picture of the overall cybercrime issue and will assist in reducing the incidence of cybercrime.

For more information on unauthorised and mistaken transactions visit in a new window)

Email scams

Common sense goes a long way in guarding yourself against email scams. Email has become a fast and easy way of forwarding unsolicited scam information to many recipients. If an online offer or deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The text of fraudulent emails may vary, but they usually ask victims to provide bank account or personal details in order to receive a fictitious financial windfall.

Examples include:

  • get-rich-quick schemes
  • miracle health products
  • competitions and lotteries
  • pyramid selling schemes
  • loan or investment scams
  • work-at-home schemes
  • bogus employment as a money-handler or money transfer agent

The SCAMwatch has further information about these emails and what to watch out for.

Reporting email scams

Report the matter to the ACSC(opens in a new window).

General advice

If you receive a suspect email, delete or ignore it, without replying or clicking on a link to unsubscribe.

  • never send personal, credit card or online account details out in an email
  • be wary about responding to special investment offers or when dealing with individuals/companies outside Australia
  • do not invest in anything you are not absolutely sure about and do not make decisions based solely on the appearance of a website
  • do your research on any investments or opportunities to ensure that it is legitimate and find out about all the terms and conditions
  • one way to check if an email is a known scam or hoax is to Google a sentence from the suspected email with the word 'scam' or 'hoax'
  • contact ACSC if you think you have been the subject of misleading or deceptive conduct

Investment fraud

How to identify an investment scam

Investment scams can come to you via a phone call or email. It may even be an offer from someone you trust. There are three main types of investment scams:

  • the investment offer is totally fictitious and does not exist
  • the investment offer exists but the money you give the scammer is not going towards that investment
  • the scammer says they are representing a well-known investment company but they are lying

Example of a fake investment offer

Organised crime groups are targeting the retirement savings of middle-aged and older Australians with sophisticated fraud operations. Criminals claiming to be investment brokers initially make contact with victims by phone. They build a rapport through regular contact over the phone and by email and create a perception of legitimacy through:

  • professional looking websites
  • personal accounts for victims with login access
  • regular reports of a strong return on investment
  • media releases; and in some cases
  • professional-looking documents delivered via courier

For more examples visit in a new window)

Who is being targeted?

Anyone with savings to invest is at risk, but victims are usually Australian males aged over 50 who have invested previously. The fraudsters typically source their contact details from publicly available investor registries or purchase details from survey and seminar participation.

How can you protect yourself?

  • always seek independent financial advice before making an investment
  • alert family and friends to this fraud, especially anyone who may have savings to invest
  • report suspected fraud to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, via in a new window) or 1300 300 630, or your local police - any information that can be provided such as company name, location and contact details will assist with subsequent investigations and enquiries
  • hang up on unsolicited telephone calls offering overseas investments
  • check any company you are discussing investments with has a valid Australian Financial Services Licence at in a new window)
  • visit in a new window) or call 1300 300 630 for further information

Identify theft

Identity theft is where a person has stolen and used personal information or assumed a pre-existing identity, with or without that person's permission, and in the case of an individual, whether the person is alive or dead. Businesses may also be victims of identity theft. Having your identity stolen can be devastating.

Quite often your stolen identity documents are used by the offender for opening and operating fictitious bank accounts in your name or accessing your bank accounts. The sort of documents offenders steal are credit cards, driver's licences, utility bills, bank and credit card statements, and any other documents containing personal information.

You should also be aware of online identity theft. If you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently online, visit our online identity theft page

How it happens

Identity theft can happen in many ways. It can range from someone using your credit illegally, to having your entire identity assumed by another person and business conducted in your name without your consent. Important personal information can be accessed by a determined thief, despite your best efforts.

For example:

  • your wallet or purse is stolen with all your identifying cards
  • your home is burgled and personal documents stolen
  • important documents, such as bank statements, credit cards, utility bills and taxation return, are stolen from your letterbox
  • mail is diverted to another address without your knowledge
  • recycle rubbish bins are searched
  • your personal computer may have been compromised with malicious software or hackers/criminals may compromise the computers of businesses that hold your personal information
  • credit card details may be captured by hidden devices during an ATM or EFTPOS transaction (ATM credit card skimming) or your PIN may be seen by someone in the queue (shoulder surfing)
  • credit cards may be skimmed at retail outlets or restaurants

How to protect yourself

Personal information is shared almost everyday as you pay bills, log on to a computer, or engage with any number of transactions with other people and organisations. You can take an active role in reducing the risk of your identity being used without your knowledge.

First, you need to recognise where you might be vulnerable and then make changes to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.


  • aim to provide a minimum amount of information about yourself
  • destroy identifying information when you are throwing out personal papers - including 'pre-approved credit card applications'
  • conduct regular checks/reconciliations of your billing and account records (credit card, cheque and mortgage accounts)
  • limit the amount of credit you have in your 'everyday' accounts
  • obtain a copy of your credit rating report regularly
  • place passwords on all your important accounts
  • memorise passwords and avoid using obvious passwords
  • secure your personal information at home
  • collect new credit cards in person from the bank
  • secure your mail with a lockable letterbox and only post mail at official post boxes
  • remove your name from mailing lists if you receive unsolicited mail
  • write cheques and fill out forms carefully so that they cannot be altered easily
  • keep a list of all your accounts and credit cards in a secure place

Do not:

  • leave anything in your car glove box that could identify you
  • provide personal information over the phone or by email to people you do not know or trust
  • let your credit card out of your sight when paying a bill
  • lend your personal documents to others
  • carry extra personal information unless you have to
  • leave your wallet/purse unattended at the gym, parties, in shopping trolleys, etc
  • send original proof of identity documents in the mail

How to report identity theft

It is important to act quickly if your personal information is compromised. Identity theft can be reported to your local police station.

Collect and keep any documentation that will help police in investigating the crime. Police may need to take your photograph or fingerprints to establish that your identity is different from that of the person who may be charged with the identity theft.

The following steps may also be necessary.

  • contact your bank or credit provider immediately and cancel all cards
  • freeze or close all accounts to which the thief may have gained access
  • open new accounts with new PINs and passwords
  • contact the Credit Reporting Agency (Veda Advantage) and ask that an alert be placed on your file
  • check your credit file carefully for unauthorised transactions or changes
  • keep all documentary evidence of fraud.


When you need us, but not the sirens

Our Police Assistance Line and online reporting service allows you to contact us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.