It’s getting harder to spot a scam. Scams target people of all ages however, seniors are more likely to be targeted. Scammers perceive seniors to have more accumulated wealth and, in their eyes, are generally less internet savvy or familiar with new technology.
To protect yourself from scams, it’s important to keep abreast of the latest ways scammers are targeting Australians. The website Scamwatch.gov.au lists a number of scams including dating, investment, unexpected prize/lottery, inheritance and rebate scams. Not forgetting, identity theft, door-to-door and home maintenance scams. There is a lot of valuable information on this site, in fact, pages and pages.
In this editorial we have focused on one of the many scams listed on Scamwatch, identity theft.
According to Scamwatch, in October 2019 alone, over 1,000 reports of identity theft occurred in Australia equating to $870,873 in losses. This type of fraud involves the use of someone else’s identity to steal money or gain other benefits.
Scamwatch have listed the following six methods used:
- Phishing – the scammer tricks you into handing over your personal information.
- Hacking – the scammer gains access to your information by exploiting security weaknesses on your computer, laptop, iPad, mobile phone or network.
- Remote access scams – you are tricked into giving access to your computer and paying for a service you don’t need.
- Malware/Ransomware – you are tricked into installing software that either allows scammers to access your files OR demands payment to ‘unlock’ your computer/files.
- Fake online profiles – scammers use your details and photo to set up a fake profile on social media or a dating site and sends out friend requests.
- Document theft – a scammer takes personal documents from your letter box or discarded documents from your bin, such as utility bills, insurance renewals or health care records.
Use the links above to read in detail about these types of scams. Understanding how these scammers operate might help you avoid being scammed. Being vigilant is key.
Below are some identity theft warning signs outlined by Scamwatch:
- emails, texts or phone calls that are unexpected and ask you to ‘validate’ or ‘confirm’ your personal details by clicking on a link or opening an attachment. The message may be poorly written and have grammatical errors.
- unexpected pop ups on your computer or iPad asking if you want to allow software to run.
- you receive a friend request from someone you don’t know on social media.
- you are unable to log into your social media or email account, or your profile has been logged into from an unusual location.
- you notice money going missing from your bank account without explanation.
- you are receiving bills, invoices or receipts for goods and services you didn’t purchase.
Whilst this all sounds a little far fetched and unlikely to happen to you, unfortunately scams in Australia are on the rise. In fact, in 2017 more than 200,000 scams were reported in Australia , the total losses reported were $340 million (read more).
If you think you have provided your account details, passport, tax file number, licence, Medicare or other personal identification details to a scammer – contact your bank, financial institution, or other relevant agencies immediately.
Here are some ways Scamwatch recommend you protect yourself:
- Do not open suspicious texts or emails – delete them.
- Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
- Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Don’t use the same password for every account, and don’t share them with anyone.
- Secure your networks and devices with anti-virus software and a good firewall. Avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access or provide personal information.
- Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
- When making online payments, only pay for items using a secure payment service—look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol, or a payment provider such as PayPal.
- Put a lock on your mailbox and shred or destroy any documents containing personal information before disposing of them.
- Find out how to get a free copy of your credit report from the ASIC MoneySmart website. Your credit report contains important information on your credit history and is useful for checking that no one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts.