5 ways to spot an impersonation scam

These days a call from your utility provider, a text about a parcel or an email from your bank can all be potential traps laid by scammers. Citro’s partner Tangerine explains how to avoid impersonation scams - and what to do if you think you’ve been stung.

By Citro partner Tangerine

Financial scams can be devastating, they’re increasing all the time. In 2022, losses from scams rose by 80% to a record $3.2 billion, as reported by the ACCC. 

Impersonation scams - where people pretend to be from your utility, telco, bank or even the government - are also on the rise. 

We all have to stay alert, so here are some important tips to help identify and avoid scams.

What's an impersonation scam?

Scammers will pretend to be trusted entities, like businesses, friends, family, or even government officials and charities. 

They’ll try to steal money or personal information using sms messages, websites, social media, email, and phone calls.

What to look out for with an impersonation scam

Impersonation scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. 

Emails, websites, social media, sms, and documents can appear authentic. 

Scammers can include their fraudulent message within an existing sms from a trusted phone number, for example.

Some even mimic the robo-style bank identification process to convince you it’s official.

Be very careful if you receive these types of messages or if someone on the phone seems to know details about you. 

Be even more suspicious if they ask you to pay, or request your bank details.

Key signs of an impersonation scam

They can be hard to spot!

Never respond to messages that ask you for passwords, verification codes or personal information.

Urgent requests for money or messages from organisations you think are real telling you there have been unauthorised transactions or asking for payment confirmation are dead giveaways that it could be a scam.

Most trusted businesses will never ask you to share any login or payment codes.

Other signs of an impersonation scam include:

  1. Requests to click on links that take you to websites asking for personal information.
  2. Being asked to provide personal details or money urgently.
  3. An organisation that you think is real tells you there has been an unauthorised transaction or asks you to confirm a payment that you didn’t make.
  4. A business asks you to use a different bank account and BSB from the last payment you made with them.
  5. You’re contacted by someone saying they are from the government or law enforcement and they threaten you.
  6. A sale, investment or job offer looks too good to be true.

How to try to verify who you are dealing with

If you suspect you are being scammed, it’s easy to ask a person or business to verify themselves. 

Trusted businesses will always be happy to be verified - scammers usually get aggressive or turn on the pressure tactics to avoid the process.

You should call the person or organisation directly using contact details you’ve found yourself on the organisation’s official website to verify them.

Watch out for slight variations in Caller or Sender IDs and web addresses - keep an eye out for dots, special characters, numbers or similar spellings.

Do online research on people and organisations whom you’ve only dealt with online before paying any money. 

A good tip can be to ask to connect with them on LinkedIn (most scammers will claim they don’t use the service).

Another tip is to search a person or organisation’s name or number with the word ‘scam’ in the search.

Scammers can use convincing impersonation methods

  • Calls appear to come from a legitimate phone number.
  • Texts can appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages.
  • Legitimate websites can be cloned to look like the real thing.
  • Emails can be sent with fake sender addresses to appear to come from trusted sources.
  • Social media profiles can be established using another person or organisation’s details and images.
  • Documents can be forged to make you think you’re dealing with a real person or business.

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

Contact your bank or card provider immediately to report the scam and ask them to stop any transactions.

IDCARE is Australia’s national identity and cyber support service who can help you make a plan to limit the damage. Call IDCARE on 1800 595 160 - their services are free.

Once you have secured your details, report the scam to

You can also read more about helping prevent SMS scams.

Remember: here’s how to prevent impersonation scams

  1. Learn what an impersonation scam is.
  2. Look out for suspicious calls, texts, websites, social media accounts and documents.
  3. Don’t click on links or urgently transfer money until you have verified the legitimacy of the person or organisation.
  4. To verify, call the person or organisation directly using contact details you’ve found yourself on the organisation’s official website.
  5. If impacted, immediately contact your bank, IDCARE and Scamwatch as soon as possible.

Enjoy up to $100 cashback with Tangerine

Enjoy up to $100 cashback on your Citro Card when you activate any NBN, SIM-only mobile plan or mobile broadband service. All of Tangerine’s plans are no lock in contract. Their mobile plans allow you to bring your mobile number across and operate on the Telstra Wholesale Mobile Network – for further information click here.

See terms and conditions. The offer is only available to those who pay through their Citro Card.

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