How to avoid getting scammed online like we did

8 June 2024

  • Jaiden and Cody had been saving for a year to move out of Jaiden’s mum’s house. When they found the ideal apartment listing on Facebook, they applied through Messenger and paid $3,000
  • When the ‘agent’ requested more money, they realised they’d been scammed out of their savings
  • CommBank personal finance expert Jess Irvine shares tips for staying safe online, including calling your bank for immediate assistance, using digital verification tools like CallerCheck, and practising "stop, check, reject"

Jaiden and Cody were living with Jaiden’s mum in a tiny one-bedroom, one-bathroom house on the outskirts of Hobart and were desperate to find their own space when they were scammed out of $3,000 – 12 months of savings – through a social marketplace rental listing. Sadly, they’re not alone. Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scammers in 2022, up 80% on the year before!1 Scamwatch data shows that since the COVID pandemic, rental scams are on the rise.2

Jess Irvine talks to Jaiden and Cody about their experience on The Brighter Side

How we got scammed

“The person with the listing sent me an application form that looked just like the ones I’d filled out before,” says Cody. “We were getting everything to him as fast as we could, and within 15 minutes we had been approved. We paid a bond, then he asked for 2 weeks’ rent.”

That part of the process was standard: a landlord or agent can request 4 weeks’ rent as a bond and 2 weeks’ rent in advance.3 But then the person Jaiden and Cody were liaising with asked for another 2 weeks’ rent, and they just knew. “That’s when everything crumbled right before our eyes,” says Cody. 

How losing our savings impacted us

“It’s really disheartening to work for 12 months on saving, then have it all crumble.” Says Cody. They not only lost all their savings but had also put a hold on a cute kitten they had planned to pick up and take to their dream apartment. “We had to move in with housemates, and while it wasn’t what we wanted, we’re happy, and that’s all that matters,” adds Jaiden.

How we’re recovering from our scam experience

Cody and Jaiden have been focused on ensuring it doesn’t happen again while rebuilding their savings. They’re also focusing on future experiences, such as saving to take Cody’s grandmother on her dream trip to New Zealand.

Jess’ tips for staying safe online

CommBank personal finance expert Jess Irvine isn’t surprised that scams are on the rise, warning: “Scammers are getting smarter and using emerging technologies to target people at vulnerable moments.” Here’s what she wants you to know:

You’re not alone – online rental scams are unfortunately common

There’s no need to feel embarrassed if you fall victim to a scam. “Scammers know there’s a housing shortage in Australia at the moment, and that groups like first-time renters, international students and older Australians are especially vulnerable,” says Jess.

Take these crucial steps if you believe you may have been impacted

  • The very first thing to do is contact your bank. For CommBank customers, you can message us in the CommBank app or call us on 13 2221
  • Stop all communication with the suspected scammer. No good can come from any further exchanges
  • Then, go straight to your banking app and change your password. For CommBank customers app to to change your NetBank password and lock your card
 “CommBank has dedicated teams to help you and point you in the right direction for support.” 

Use digital tools designed to help prevent scams

From time to time, CommBank may call about your accounts or the products and services you have with them. However, it’s important that both parties know they’re talking to the right person. Jess recommends using CallerCheck.

“If you get a call from someone claiming to be from CommBank, you can ask them to send you a confirming notification in the CommBank app. If they can’t, you know it’s not us.”

CallerCheck triggers a security message in your CommBank app and it’s the most secure way to complete the identification process.

Stop, check, reject

It’s the new slip, slop, slap!

  • Stop: Does a call, email or text seem off? Stop and take a breath. Legitimate businesses won’t pressure you to act instantly
  • Check: Ask someone you trust, contact the organisation, or use search engines to see if others have reported similar scams
  • Reject: If you’re unsure, hang up on the caller, delete the email or block the phone number

Protecting you is our top priority. For more information on cyber security, scams and fraud visit our CommBank Safe hub.

Jess Irvine, CommBank personal finance expert, is an economist and a respected journalist with nearly two decades of financial reporting experience. Her personal passion is helping people with their money.

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Targeting Scams report, 2023

ScamWatch, Rental scams targeting more Australians during pandemic, 21 September 2020

Consumer, Building and Occupational Services, Upfront entry costs – renting, 25 July 2022

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This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.