With more tools and technology at their fingertips than ever before, online scammers are becoming much smarter at getting what they want. Whether it’s hanging out on social networking sites, sneaking emails into your inbox or calling you at home and posing as someone they’re not, these cyber-criminals are lurking everywhere.
If you think that you’ll never fall victim to an online scam, statistics from the consumer watchdog sadly suggest otherwise. The latest report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed that Aussies were cheated out of at least $489 million dollars  in 2018, that’s a 44% hike on 2017.
Common scams to watch out for.
So what scams should you be looking out for when doing any kind of activity online? We’ve hand-picked some of the most commons scams below:
Scams to gain your personal information.
Scammers will try every trick in the book to get hold of your personal details. According to the ACCC, ‘phishing’ scams (attempts to trick you into handing over sensitive information such as your bank account information, passwords or credit card details) were the most reported scam type in Australia for 2018 . Perhaps one of the most well-known cases of phishing is the PayPal email scam , where unsuspecting consumers received emails from a fake PayPal account stating their account would be disabled if they failed to update their personal details or re-activate their account.
Phishing is just one tactic in the scammer’s toolkit. Scammers are also known to obtain your personal details by hacking into your computer or mobile or trick you into installing software that allows them to access your files and monitor your movements online.
Dating and romance scams.
According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, Australians lost a staggering $24.6million on dating and romance scams in 2018, a 20% increase on 2017 . The stats show that women are particularly at risk and four times more likely to lose money than men. With the rapid rise of social networking platforms and dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, online scammers now have more places to target those looking for love.
Online shopping scams.
With more Aussies shopping online for goods
and services, online scammers also have more opportunities to pose as genuine
buyers and sellers on online shopping sites, online auction sites and
classified sites, which are becoming particularly common. In a recent
scam, one scammer forged a PayPal payment
confirmation and tried to trick a campervan seller into paying for courier fees
which could have cost the victim around $2,000.
Online scammers also have social platforms such as Facebook as a means to set up online stores and attract unsuspecting buyers. Once they reach their sales target, these stores disappear as quickly as they pop up.
According to Scamwatch, 43.2% of scams are delivered by phone  so it’s just as important to be vigilant when taking a call from a number you don’t know. Phone scams are designed to trick you into thinking you’re dealing with someone from a well-known organisation, the end goal being to get hold of your personal information or payment details.
Two common phone scams are callers posing as representatives from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) or Telstra. In these instances, scammers may call to chase up ‘outstanding bills’ or even imitate someone from the ‘support desk’ in an attempt to get remote access to your computer. Technical support scams typically start with a caller claiming that your computer is infected with a virus, or that there’s a problem with your internet connection. These scammers will often use technical jargon to appear legitimate and intimidate you into following their instructions.
Tips for staying safe online.
These scams are just the tip of the iceberg and there are plenty more scams you could encounter online. Whilst there’s no silver bullet to protect you and your information, here are some tips to help you fend off cyber-criminals:
- Never give out personal information over the phone or allow a caller to have access to your computer remotely, especially if they called you unexpectedly. If you’re unsure whether the call is a scam, end the call, and call them back on their phone number you find on their website or phone book.
- Stay alert and always consider that a person or business could be looking to scam you. If in doubt, do online research to find out more about the person or company to check whether they’re legitimate.
- Always verify the security of online shopping sites, and never send money to a person or business you don’t completely trust.
- Don’t accept contact requests on social media from people you don’t know and be careful how much personal information you share on social platforms.
- Think twice before you open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails and don’t be tempted to click on links from people or businesses you don’t know.
- Make sure you choose strong and secure passwords that are difficult to predict and update each password regularly.
Keeping you and your personal information safe means always staying vigilant when online. If you have come across what you believe to be a scam, you can help others by reporting the scam to your local police, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission via Scamwatch. Visit www.scamwatch.gov.au  for more information.
If you believe your personal information has been compromised, contact us immediately on 13 25 85.