How to Avoid Common Scams Targeting Expats in Australia

11 May

It’s easy to get scared away with horror stories of scams, but if you know how to protect yourself then there is nothing to fear. With advances in technology, scammers are finding new ways to take advantage of vulnerable people. Because expats are less familiar with the cultural norms of the country they are living in, are sometimes isolated, and are accustomed to reaching out to strangers as they go about building their life in a new country, they are the targets of many scams. As an expat, the best way to avoid being targeted by these scams is to be aware of them. In this blog, we are sharing common scams and how to avoid them.


Online dating scam


A person you meet on an online dating website, through social media, or via email will say they want to book tickets to see you but they never come. Instead, they will ask you to send money to help pay for the tickets or to help them through a personal hardship.


How can I avoid it?


A quick image search could save you a lot of misery. Just drag their profile image into Google image search and from there you can get an idea of who they are. No matter how genuine it may sound, if somebody you haven’t met in person asks you for money then you must consider the possibility it is a scam. If you know for sure, report them.


In another common variation of this scam, a scammer will try and lure somebody overseas. Scammers are often part of international criminal networks and may involve you in dangerous or illegal activities. Always tell your friends and family where you are going and who you are meeting before you go. Smartraveller is a great resource that will help you protect yourself on your travels.


Emergency call scam


These phone calls usually target international students with the ultimate goal of scaring expats into sending money. By posing as somebody claiming to be from your school, the police or the immigration department, these scammers want to scare you into thinking you need to send money immediately.


How can I avoid it?


Don’t give out your credit card number or any other sensitive information over the phone. Official bodies and education institutions do not call up and ask for money out of the blue. Even if they sound official and know some details about you like your name and where you study. Don’t let it scare you. Just hang up and report the number.


If you can get the number that called you, Google it and you can find out if it’s a legitimate service or a scam.


If somebody asks for remote access to your computer, hang up immediately.


Sponsorship scam


This scam isn’t as common but it targets expats. Scammers posing as a recruitment agency will offer an impressive salary after an internship and promise a sponsored job as well as a pathway to permanent residency. Then they will ask you to pay upfront fees that may run into the tens of thousands. After you pay, you’ll discover there is no job or sponsorship at the end.


How can I avoid it?


Know the hallmarks of this scam:

  • Scammers will contact you out of nowhere with a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity
  • They ask you pay them instead of the government
  • They ask you to lie on your visa
  • They refuse to show you their licence


If you’ve been offered an internship remember that legally you should not have to pay for an internship. If you suspect they are trying to scam you then report them.


Wangiri scam


The Wangiri scam is when you get a phone call from a mysterious number that immediately hangs up. The scammers want you to call back where they will hold you on the line as long as possible, charging you by the minute.


How can I avoid it?


Don’t call back, report the number and then block it. They are usually from international numbers. If you aren’t expecting an international call, just ignore it.


Employment Scam


If you are an expat coming to Australia to work you should know that sometimes job search sites accidentally host scam jobs. Scammers will occasionally post fake jobs on legitimate job boards to steal identities and money.


How can I avoid it?


If a potential employer asks you to send your passport, ID, tax file number, bank details or any other similar documents in the application then the job is probably a scam. Asking for these details before offering you the job is not a standard practise in Australia. If you ever come across a job like this then you should immediately report it to the job board.


All this information can feel overwhelming and a little scary. Don’t let it scare you away from your travels, you will be fine if you protect yourself legally, get a second opinion and take a little time to make sure what you’re getting into is legitimate.


For more information on how to avoid and spot scams check out scamwatch. This site lets you keep up to date with scams and confirm any suspicions you may have.


Knowledge is your best defence, not just knowledge of how to spot a scam but knowledge of what your rights are as an expat living in Australia. If you’re looking for guidance for working overseas and want to protect yourself, AHWC provides an understanding legal service to help you get your employment visa. Call us today on 1300 887 818 and speak to a friendly consultant and find out more.