20 December 2023

Be alert to frauds and scams this holiday season

Scammers often target consumers at this time of year when people are spending more, are seeking out a deal in the post-Christmas sales and are more distracted than usual.

However, if it looks too good to be true it probably is – for example if the price is too low, the products are in high demand and hard to find, or if the seller is conveying a sense to urgency - buyers should be on high alert. These are often criminals selling fictitious goods or trying to get your personal information.

Jessica Power, Head of Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC Australia said: “Every day, scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and devising new and complex ways to take advantage of people.

Be extra vigilant this holiday season - remember your bank will never contact you for any account or personal details in an unsolicited text or email. If you feel as though you’ve been caught in a scam, contact your financial institution immediately.

It’s important that we all remain on alert to the various tricks used by scammers and follow some simple steps to make sure you don’t fall victim to a fraudster.”

In addition to sales scams, here are some other scams to look out for this festive season:

1. ‘Safe account’ scams
By taking advantage of people being busy and distracted at Christmas, criminals may claim a bank account has been compromised, tricking someone into sending money to a ‘safe account’ that has been opened for them.
Banks will never contact you to move funds so if you are concerned your account has been hacked, contact the customer service team listed on your bank’s official website, rather than one linked in a text.

2. Delivery scams
Scammers send fake text messages and emails claiming to be from a delivery company. They say they tried to deliver a parcel and ask for the recipient to click on a link to find out more or rearrange delivery by sharing personal credentials.

3. Hi mum / hi dad scams
Criminals pose as loved ones and send messages out of the blue, often pretending to be children asking for money urgently. Scammers often play on emotions, creating a sense of urgency and pressure. People – particularly parents – should make sure they pause to verify who it is they are speaking to and pay special attention to unknown numbers claiming to be from friends or family who suddenly have new contact details.

4. Romance scams
Christmas can be a lonely time for some people and scammers may befriend people online by setting up fake profiles on dating websites, apps, and social media. They then ask for money for an emergency or for a gift, particularly at Christmas or supposed birthdays.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to pause and get a second opinion from a trusted friend.

5. New payee scams
Some people have received bogus text messages claiming a new payment has been made via their mobile banking app. They are then asked to validate their bank details by following a link to a fake website in the text message. While banks often send notifications advising of unusual activity on your account to keep it secure, these notifications will never be accompanied by links requesting personal details.

6. Holiday and travel scams
Christmas and New Year often sees a spike in holiday bookings – but scammers are often advertising holidays that do not exist, so do some due diligence and research before booking with a trusted and well-reviewed provider.

7. Invoice scams
With an invoice scam, the victim attempts to pay an invoice to a legitimate payee, but the criminal intervenes to convince the victim to redirect the payment to an account they control.
Criminals may pose as conveyancing solicitors, builders and other tradespeople. They may also target businesses, posing as a supplier, and claiming that the bank account details have changed.

This type of fraud often involves the criminal either intercepting emails or compromising an email account. For large transactions such as settlements, always verify the bank details verbally with your solicitor or conveyancer and ensure any emails advising you of changed details around the time of settlement are urgently discussed directly with them.

If you believe you might have been exposed to a scam, contact your financial institutions to secure your accounts, contact any other services that use your personal identity documents (such as the ATO), and change the passwords to any other accounts which you think the scammer may have accessed or to which they now have access.

HSBC Australia
In Australia, the HSBC Group offers an extensive range of financial services through a network of 33 branches and offices. These services include retail and commercial banking, trade finance, treasury and financial markets, payments and cash management and securities custody. Principal HSBC Group members operating in Australia include HSBC Bank Australia Limited (ABN 48 006 434 162 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 232595) and The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (ABN 65 117 925 970 and AFSL 301737).

HSBC Holdings plc
HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC, is headquartered in London. HSBC serves customers worldwide from offices in 62 countries and territories. With assets of US$3,021bn at 30 September 2023, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.

Media enquiries:

Lillian Birchall
M: +61 481 095 770
E-mail: lillian.birchall@hsbc.com.au