Australians lost around $2 billion in scams in 2021 and that figure is likely to continue to grow, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Cyber safety: Protecting your privacy and your finances
The ACCC’s Scamwatch said research found that in the five years to 2021, 96 percent of the population was exposed to a scam, with half of the respondents contacted weekly or daily by scammers. There had been hundreds of reports to Scamwatch in the weeks following the recent high-profile data breaches and that is expected to continue.
Scammers rely on building trust in order to dupe targets out of money. They aim to access information in a variety of ways from phishing emails and text messages, to creating false online stores which take your payment but do not deliver the product.
In more complex scams, fraudsters befriend their targets on social media using false profiles with the aim of building trust, and eventually con their victim into providing loans or other personal information. The reality is, there’s a realm of information available on all of us online, and scammers use this to their advantage.
When we think about scams, we may immediately think of the effect as being the loss of money, but there’s also an emotional cost.
Those who are targeted will often battle with trust after their experience – whether they can trust their ability to discern right from wrong, or whether they can trust other people to do the right thing. They are often embarrassed and sometimes unwilling to share their story with others.
This exacerbates how they are feeling and can trigger more serious responses such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scams are emotionally devastating for victims and their families. It’s important that people reach out for help if they need it to a number of support services available. If you think you have been scammed, contact the relevant financial institution immediately.
Play it safe
The best action is prevention, and to be aware of known scams by regularly accessing information which explains current scams, and how to avoid them.
Scams come in many guises. In the nine months to September 2022, Scamwatch found:
- The highest-loss categories were investment scams ($292.9 million), dating and romance scams ($29 million) and remote access scams ($18.7 million).
- The top three most-reported scams were phishing (50,015), false-billing (16,263) and online shopping scams (13,068).
- The most common contact modes were phone (51,234), SMS (50,947) and email (33,287).
- People aged 65 and over made the most reports (35,343) and experienced the highest losses ($87.4 million).
- About 12 percent of people experienced a financial loss; 27 percent reported the loss of personal information.
Tips to avoid scams
1. Use multi-factor authentication where possible. Active Super uses this enhanced security measure to protect your personal data from unauthorised access.
2. If you receive a call asking for remote access to your computer, do not give it – even if the caller mentions a well-known company.
3. If a caller from an alleged government agency is pressuring you to make a payment over the phone, do not do what they ask. Find the agency’s phone number and call them directly before taking any action.
4. Don’t feel pressured to giving away your name, date of birth and address to a caller, even if from a ‘trusted source’. Tell the caller you will phone them back, and use the number listed on the company’s website, not a number provided by the caller.
5. If you are interacting with someone who is asking for payment via gift card or cryptocurrency, they aren’t the real deal – a legitimate business will invoice you.
6. Limit the personal information you share online, particularly on social media. Scammers can use this information against you.
7. Use a secure virtual private network (VPN) for your internet time – if you must use a public network, don’t do anything which requires a password.
8. Delete anything which seems suspicious or has popped up without you seeking it, even if it seems harmless.
9. Keep your privacy settings on high – take the time to find the settings and ensure they are enabled.
10. Create complex and unrelated passwords for online activity and change them regularly.
11. When you buy things online make sure you pay via secure and encrypted sites – at a minimum make sure the website’s URL starts with https not just http.
12. Keep your anti-virus software up to date.
If you have given personal information to a scammer contact IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service, and report scams to Scamwatch.
To keep members informed on how to protect themselves online, Active Super recorded a webinar offering tips on how to identify a scam and protect personal information.
The government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre assists you on what to do if you think you’re the victim of a cybercrime.
You can also contact Active Super by going to our Help and Support page.
Any advice in this article is general in nature and has been issued by LGSS Pty Limited (ABN 68 078 003 497) (AFSL 383558), as Trustee for Local Government Super (ABN 28 901 371 321)(‘Active Super’). This article does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on it, you should consider the appropriateness of it having regard to these matters. If you would like advice that takes into account your personal circumstances, please contact a financial adviser.
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