Impersonation scams

Scams Awareness Week will take place from Monday 27 November to Friday 1 December. This year's theme is impersonation scams. Speech bubble with the words "whos really there?"

What are impersonation scams?

An impersonation scam is where scammers pretend to be trusted businesses, friends or family to steal your money or personal information. Impersonation scammers can reach you on all mediums such as text message, websites, social media, email and phone calls. Scammers often pretend to be government officials, well-known companies, charities, celebrities, law enforcement or even family and friends.

Impersonation scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and therefore harder to identify. Scammers can use technology to make their calls appear to come from a legitimate phone number. Their texts can appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages from an organisation.

Websites for legitimate organisations 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 an organisation’s details and images. Documents can be forged to make you think you’re dealing with a real person or business. Impersonation scammers may know or claim to know some information about you and use this to convince you they are legitimate.

Find out more about the different types of scams

How to avoid impersonation scams

Don’t automatically assume the person you are dealing with is who they say they are.

Slow down and ask yourself “who’s really there?”

Don’t click on links in text messages. Immediately cut contact with anyone who tries to threaten or intimidate you. Don’t open or download any attachments or apps if instructed as these can install malicious software on to your computer or phone giving access to your personal information, data, and accounts.

Find out more.

Scams webinars

Join experts from Legal Aid NSW and Fair Trading NSW to talk about the latest scams, what to look out for and how to protect yourself from them. Tuesday 28 November at 12 - 1pm. 

Register here.

ID Support 

Join ID Support NSW for a week of online events about different types of impersonation scams and how to protect yourself: 

  • Family and friends (Monday)
  • Banks (Tuesday)
  • Government (Wednesday)
  • Celebrities (Thursday)
  • Businesses (Friday)

They will introduce some common examples of impersonation scams, why they're so effective and discuss real-life case studies. They'll also discuss the red flags to look out for, where to report and how to access help.

Find out more.

Getting help

ID Support NSW makes it easier for people to access help if their NSW Government proof of identity credentials are stolen or fraudulently used.

IDCARE supports members of the community who have concerns about their identity or related cyber security.

Case study - bank impersonation scam

Kelly got a call from a woman saying she was from the bank’s fraud team. She told Kelly she was calling to confirm a transaction of $17,000 for accommodation and car hire in New Zealand.

Kelly was immediately worried. She didn’t know anything about the transaction. The caller then told Kelly about another transaction from her account. This was one Kelly had made. The caller told Kelly she had to secure her account to stop further unauthorised use. Panicked, Kelly followed the caller’s instructions and logged into her online banking account.

They told her to change her password, giving her a temporary password to use. Kelly didn’t realise that doing this gave the scammers access to her account. Kelly felt relieved when she noticed there were no signs of the $17,000 transaction on her account, then the call dropped out.  

Kelly soon got another call. This time it was her real bank, telling her that her entire savings of $48,000 had been withdrawn. The bank told her the funds had been immediately converted to cryptocurrency, and she was not likely to get it back. 

How the scam works 

This impersonation scam uses a trusted organisation, the threat of losing money and a sense of urgency to make us act.

If you receive unexpected or suspicious contact from someone claiming to be your bank, stop the contact immediately and notify your bank. 

How to protect yourself

Always take the time to independently contact your bank using a secure app or trusted number you’ve verified yourself.

Never be pressured to give someone your private information.

Report the scam to Scamwatch so they can warn others and disrupt the scam.