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The Christmas Grinch has scammed me—what should I do?

8 December 2017

Don’t feel helpless or embarrassed if you’ve been hit by an online scam at Christmas time. You’re not the only one.

In December 2016, 7153 online scams were reported to Scamwatch, the highest number of online scams in a month that financial year.

In these scams, criminals used the internet, email, mobile apps, or social networking and online forums to siphon money from victims. Individuals lost $2.3 million to online scams last December and that increased to almost $3.2 million in the following month. 

If you do lose money to an online scam it is unlikely you will be able to recover any money lost, but there are some simple steps you can take to limit the damage and protect yourself from further harm:

  1. Contact your bank or financial institution: if you’ve inadvertently sent money or personal banking details to a scammer while Christmas shopping, contact your financial institution immediately. They may be able to stop a money transfer or cheque, investigate a fraudulent credit card transaction or even close your account. Most big banks offer guarantees that they’ll cover any loss due to unauthorised transactions on your account, as long as you didn’t contribute to the loss, you protected your devices and passwords, and you let them know as soon as it happened. Most financial institutions will have support lines open during public holidays.
  2. Recover your identity: if you think you have been the victim of identity theft and a criminal has taken some of your personal details, act quickly to avoid further damage. For free advice contact IDCARE. Call 1300 IDCARE (1300 432 273) or go to www.idcare.org, here you can run a free cyber first aid kit to help you work out what to do.
  3. Report to authorities: if you have been a victim of a cybercrime, report it to your local police by calling 131 444. We also encourage you to report:
    • cybercrime to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN)
    • financial scams to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
    • other scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch.
  4. Run anti-virus software on all your devices: if you fear your computer or device has been hacked over the holiday period, run a full anti-virus check. Read more on anti-virus software.
  5. Change your online passwords: if you suspect one of your online accounts has been compromised over Christmas, change your password immediately. Think of a passphrase that is made up of at least four words that are meaningful so it is easy to remember. A strong passphrase is at least 12 characters long. Read more on creating strong passwords.