Cyber safety: Protecting your privacy and your finances

Australians lost around $2.7 billion in scams in 2023 and those aged over 65 were most vulnerable, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Over 601,000 reports about scams were made in 2023, up 18.5 percent from the 507,000 reported in 2022, the ACCC’S Targeting Scams report found.

Most Australians who lost money did so through investment scams, accounting for more than $1.3 billion in losses, the report said.

People over 65 were more likely to lose money than any other age group and were the only age group that lost more money in 2023 than in 2022.

Despite the number of reported scams increasing, the amount lost is down compared to 2022, when Australians lost a record $3.1 billion. The ACCC said the decline in overall financial losses was due to increased vigilance and efforts from banks, government and industry.

Scamwatch's data shows that while losses to scams conducted via text message or over the phone decreased, the amount of money lost to scams over email and social media grew.

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.

Emotional cost

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 to several support services available. If you think you have been scammed, contact the relevant financial institution listed below.

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.

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.

Seek assistance

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.

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.


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