Scams Awareness Week 2019
Many Australians believe they could confidently spot a scam, or believe they would know what to do if they were targeted. But the reality is that scams continue to cost our community millions of dollars every year – with $25.3 million lost to email scams alone last year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s 2018 Targeting Scams Report (PDF).
Scammers are getting more sophisticated with technology by mimicking branding, logos, language and contact details to pose as legitimate people or organisations – which can trick even the smartest of people.
They also use a range of psychological tactics to prey on people. Scammers know we tend to comply with requests from people of authority, so they will often pretend to be government agencies or well-known businesses to gain your trust. They also know we’re used to verifying our identity for a range of reasons in our daily lives, as a way to convince you to hand over your personal details like logins, passwords, account numbers and credit card details.
Experts in the field, Professor David Lacey, Chair of Cyber Security at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and Professor Monica Whitty, cyber psychologist at the University of Melbourne, reveal more insights into how scammers trick us:
It's a Scam: How the Scammers Trick Us
They provide you with links that take you to websites they’ve created, get you to call back on a number they’ve provided you, or seek to gain remote access to your computer after contacting you by phone. Scammers might make it sound like you have to do something urgently to get you to make decisions without time to think.
These are all methods used by cybercriminals to obtain your personal details, so they can:
- steal your money
- transfer money out of your bank accounts to themselves
- make purchases on your credit card, or
- pretend to be you in accessing your online accounts and contacting your friends and family.
How can I protect myself?
Firstly, be aware that scammers don’t discriminate who they target. They can use email addresses caught up in data breaches, and details exposed about you online (e.g. through social media), to cast their net wide to reach people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from scams:
- Be alert to scams. If you’ve been contacted out of the blue by an unknown person, even if they claim to be from the government or a trusted business, always consider the possibility that it may be a scam.
- Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller or email, or feel pressured to act quickly – remember to take your time and never rush a decision or action. If you’re unsure, don’t respond and speak to a trusted friend or family member about what has happened.
- Don’t open anything that looks suspicious including texts, pop-up windows, or links and attachments in emails. If you’re unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
- Know who you're dealing with – if you've only ever met someone online or you’re not sure if the business is genuine, do your research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for reviews. If a message or email comes from a friend and it seems unusual or out of character for them, contact your friend directly using contact details unrelated to the email to check that it was really them that sent it.
- Be wary of unusual payment requests – Scammers will often ask you to pay by unusual methods, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, direct bank transfers or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
- Don’t send money or give bank or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Beware of emails or messages requesting changes to payment details. Always verify changes to payment details directly with the business or individual, using contact details you’ve sourced separately from those in the email or message.
It’s Scams Awareness Week, which runs from 12-16 August 2019, and Australians are being urged to consider if they are ‘Too smart to be scammed.’
Head to www.scamwatch.gov.au/scamsweek2019 for more information.
Follow Stay Smart Online on Facebook for videos we’ll be sharing this week on tricks scammers use to deceive us.
If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, visit our Get help page.