With technology becoming more accessible, intelligent and widely used, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that your personal information and data is protected from scams. There has been a growth in the number of people online as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and this has caused a proliferation of scammers targeting personal information. This increase has led to a total financial loss estimated at $91m in 2020 so far.
Top Tips to Avoid Scams
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has put together its top five tips to help protect your personal information.
- Do not feel pressured to give your personal information away to someone who has contacted you.
- When receiving unexpected emails or messages, do not click on any links, even if it seems to have been sent by a legitimate source.
- Make sure to use strong passwords for all your accounts and your internet network.
- Install antivirus software on your computer and other devices and ensure that it is kept up to date.
- Limit the personal information that is shared about yourself online, even on social media.
There has been an increase of 44% in phishing scams this year alone. Phishing scams are the most common form of scam and it is where a scammer will pose as a legitimate institution such as government departments, banks, telephone companies and other businesses in order to collect personal details which they can use to access bank accounts, superannuation and apply for loans under the stolen identity.
Common features of phishing emails or messages to look out for are:
- An offer that is too good to be true
- A sense of urgency to respond to the message
- Unusual hyperlinks within the message
- Unexpected attachments
- Unfamiliar sender
Get Legal Advice
If you think you have been scammed and need any assistance please don’t hesitate to get in contact with one of our lawyers via our contact form or call us on 02 9963 9800 for a no-obligation discussion.
More information on types of scams and how to protect yourself can be found here.
Scamwatch can also help if you wish to get help or to report a scam.
Every year scams cost Australians millions of dollars as well as considerable non-financial harm, therefore it is crucial that you remain alert so that you are not the target of the next scam. In 2019 alone, there were over 353,000 reports of scams, and Australians lost over $634 million. In this blog, recent trends in scam activity and methods to protect yourself from being scammed are outlined.
Business email scams accounted for the highest financial losses in 2019, costing businesses $132 million according to the ACCC’s Targeting Scams report. A common technique scammers use is to intercept legitimate invoices and change the payment details so that the recipient will not realise that they have been scammed. Scammers may also impersonate staff to request the transfer of funds for purchasing gifts for other colleagues or for other business related expenses.
Small and micro businesses reported more scams than medium and large-sized businesses. The average loss was $11,000, however, some businesses lost up to $200,000. Scams have become increasingly complex and difficult to identify with the aid of technology. Therefore, it is essential for businesses and staff to remain alert and to familiarise themselves with common scams they may encounter.
Consumer scams succeed because they mimic genuine deals and catch consumers off-guard. By taking advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events to create believable stories, it is simpler for scammers to target their audience and capture their money or personal details. Scamwatch has received over 2,000 reports about COVID-19 scams and reported losses of more than $700,000.
Scammers set up fake websites, ads on trusted platforms and false social media accounts in the guise of selling real products. They often ask for upfront payments or an initial deposit, plus additional costs such as administration or transportation. Consumers must also be alerted to common scams such as online shopping scams. These scams do not have a verified payment system, offer free products in exchange for personal details and lure you with unexpected winnings or an investment scheme.
How to Protect Yourself from Being Scammed
Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. With increased socio-economic vulnerability during COVID-19, scammers have the opportunity to target a wider audience. For example, with many people feeling lonely during isolation, Scamwatch has seen a recent spike in the activity of puppy scams resulting in Australians losing around $300,000.
The best way to combat online fraud is to stay one step ahead of scammers by learning how to protect yourself. Here are some tips from Scamwatch to help you remain alert:
- Be alert to the fact that scams exist.
- Know with who you are dealing.
- Do not open suspicious tests, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails.
- Keep your personal details secure.
- Choose your passwords carefully.
- Requests for personal details or money should be red flags.
- In particular, be alert to law enforcement scams.
Unfortunately, scams are becoming more sophisticated and are often very difficult to trace, so in most cases, the money can never be retrieved. For further assistance on any matter relating to scams or competition and consumer law, please contact one of our experienced solicitors on 02 9963 9800 or via our contact form here.