How it started

Scams have always been big business for cybercriminals, but by the middle of 2019, it had reached epidemic proportions. I was getting scam messages and emails with such regularity, as were friends and family. I’m a technology journalist, and so while I’m harder to convince, friends and family know I’m just a phone call, SMS, or tweet away to find out whether the message they had received was right or wrong. 

But it’s not that way for everyone. We all have friends who we rely on to set up the printer and fix the phone, but are they always going to be able to tell you not to click on that message and not to fall for a scam?

A recent report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission suggests Australians are losing close to half a billion dollars to scams right now.

Think about it: on the whole, our nation lost around $500 million to scammers in the past year, and that’s what we know about that was reported. Not every scam gets reported. 

It’s a problem that needs to go away, but it won’t. Scams are big business because we keep falling for them, but we don’t have to.

We can beat them if we just try. 

What we do

At the heart of this website is education. No fancy tricks, no data to sell to organisations. Just plain and simple education.

Australians are lucky in that it has a government that looks for ways to make sure they know about scams, and websites such as Scamwatch and Stay Smart Online help, but they may not do enough. While they warn about the dangers of scams and with regular alerts, they don’t describe the individual scams affecting us right now. They may not arm you with the information you need to memorise to beat the scam.

That’s where How Scams Work aims to be different.

We meant what we said with the heart of this website being education. It’s written by journalists in the industry who are not only looking to change the scam game and defeat the scammers, but who are also writing security regularly.

How Scams Work is about evening the game and making it easier for regular people to know the tricks scammers use to convince you of the legitimacy of their deceit. This is about beating scammers with the right knowledge, so the next time someone sends you an email or an SMS, or tries to convince you over the phone that you should be paying them a form of ransom, you know that the best solution is to close that window, delete the message, or hang up and call the police.

We can beat cybercriminals with the right education.

How you can help

Defeating the scammer scourge is a group effort, and it’s one you can help with. If you get a scam message that you think everyone should know about, send it in. Upload it to the site and we’ll not only let you know if it’s real, we’ll share the message in a report to build a database of scams.

We want to make it as hard as possible for scammers to trick you, and for anyone to come to the site, type in a word or three about the scam they think they’ve seen, and work out whether it’s real or a scam simply by learning from what others have seen.

Much of the education that sits at the heart of How Scams Work is derived from the work at Pickr, an Australian technology website with an award-winning podcast, The Wrap.

Beyond these two connected publications, How Scams Work is always looking for others to share tips and tricks to beat scammers with. If you work in security, we’d love to hear from you, too. The more advice, information, and know how we can share, the more everyone can learn.

How Scams Work is about beating scams once and for all, and forever. Never fall for a scam again.