It's no secret, Social Media can be great for business. A business has so many options to create a presence on line, but as with anything even in our personal lives, the scammers just have to have a crack.
Today's blog post is simply a reminder about how easily we can get caught out, and some tips to keep you and your family safe - not just in a car crash scam context either.
I was very recently contacted on LinkedIn by a person who asked if I ran accident claims. Now for those of you who know me personally, you'd know that I tread very carefully. I politely responded that yes, our firm runs general personal injury matters, and was then met with a query of whether I accept car accident referrals. Immediately the alarm bells started to clang (not ring, this was a loud alert).
If you are not aware, in December 2019, the Queensland Government introduced legislation to criminalise "Claim Farming". This is the process where the general public were being harrassed by various entities either locally or overseas and encouraged (sometimes very strongly) to make a claim. The methods used to target individuals varied from the generic "have you been in a car crash?" through to quite sophisticated where they had somehow obtained details of persons involved in an accident. As a result of the community unrest at this intrusion, it is now illegal (yes, "illegal") for Lawyers in Queensland to pay a fee to a "car crash scammer" in exchange for the referral of the work. End result of the LinkedIn contact was that the messaging did not go any further. Our firm simply will not engage in this practice - not only for the fact it is illegal to do so, but the effects of firms taking these matters and flouting the rules are wide reaching. Public confidence plummets in our system, the costs of claims increases and naturally our CTP premiums increase, honest claimants are then locked out of the system, and it goes on. Regrettably, there are lawyers who are content to feed this system - we are not in their company.
This has also come at a time when our "office mobile" is receiving several calls a day from various entities. "Nicole from Telstra" is a frequent caller despite none of our accounts being with Telstra, "Amazon" also calls several times a week to advise of our next payment and yesterday a real person from "Visa" told me that an organisation was trying to authorise a $2,700 payment to my credit card.
These calls are obviously annoying, generally obvious and in our case, the office mobile is used solely for the purposes of making calls, there are no accounts attached to it so we know that these are scams, however all too often people are falling for the charms of the scammers.
So, how to keep yourself safe, and what to do?
When it comes to car crash scammers, you can either hang up, or as MAIC (Motor Accident Insurance Commission) has a reporting function on their website to report scam calls, you can try and obtain as many details as possible in order to report and for MAIC to identify the scammer. We encourage all of our clients and readers to report any such scam calls. This will help stamp out this process and leave a fair and equitable CTP system in Queensland. Do not give any other details to the caller, and hang up, then report.
If you haven't done this and you've been referred to a website, check the veracity of the website - is there an ABN? are there contact details other than an email form? How is the spelling and the grammar? Does it look professional? Is it consistent - eg you are in Queensland and the site refers to Queensland legislation, not NSW or a combination of. You can even go one step further and search for the business in the Business names register, or an ABR search. If you can't find the business in official and public channels, it is most likely a scam. Take some time to do some homework.
For general nuisance calls, you can listen to what they have to say. If it's an auto recording then simply hang up. DO NOT press any other buttons or say anything further. If there is a "real person" on the line, and what they are saying doesn't make sense, hang up.
I have to admit that being a lawyer comes too naturally to me and I will ask them questions which catch them off guard - eg "what was the name of that card that the organisation is trying to debit", or I have been known to throw some cross examination style questions which usually results in a hang up from their end and a fit of giggles from my family. Their easy prey is someone who doesn't ask questions.
Never, ever give out personal details on a phone call unless you are entirely sure who has called you. When in doubt, you should always ask for a reference number and a phone number that you can call them back on where someone is asking for personal details. Scammers will not do this, but genuine entities will. (Unfortunately, the Australian Tax Office is notorious for calling you and then asking you to verify your own identity - which really does raise eyebrows in todays society where scammers pretending to call from the ATO are rife).
Scammers are calling from overseas numbers, mobile numbers, local numbers and private numbers. I have noticed an increase in clients not responding to my calls when I call from a private number - hence why we now have an office mobile. It is however, a good idea NOT to answer a private number and yell profanities down the phone just incase your friendly lawyer is on the other end as one of our client's recently discovered! Thankfully we all have a sense of humour!
Really, I don't have a solution for the scam calls. They will keep coming. Be alert, if something doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. Get a number and call them back, or get them to put something in writing to you, by old fashioned snail mail. Never give personal information over the phone to a random call and if you are called by a claims farmer and genuinely have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, take the time out to consider your options. Call a dedicated injury law firm yourself and have a chat (if you call our firm, you'll even get to speak to the Principal).
When dealing with businesses - never give your bank account details by email and never pay an account from details in an email. You should ALWAYS call an organisation you are looking to pay and verbally confirm their banking details. We will NEVER ask you for your bank details by email and we will ALWAYS confirm our bank details with you over the phone.
You will never look silly for asking questions. Our office expects it, and we encourage it.
** Note, I was feeling rather sheepish for the image for this blog post.... but those cattle dogs are looking rather untrustworthy in their farming endeavours, don't you agree?!