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Screenshot of a breaking news alert e-mail from Q2 2017
The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) just warned people to stay alert to ‘phishing’ scammers pretending to be from well-known businesses and government departments trying to con unsuspecting victims out of their personal information and money.
So far in 2017, the ACCC’s Scamwatch has received more than 11,000 reports of this scam, with nearly $260,000 lost.
Phishing scams are the most common scam reported to Scamwatch—reports are 63 per cent higher than the next most popular category. Statistics also show that older Australians (those aged 65+) are particularly vulnerable to this scam and that email or the phone are the scammers’ preferred tool of the trade for contacting potential victims.
Scammers use phishing to trick their victims into giving out valuable personal information such as their bank account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers or even their online passwords for their PayPal, Apple or social media accounts. Any personal information you have is potentially valuable to a scammer and they will try to get it off you in a variety of ways,” ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.
The vast majority come either via the phone or email. The scammers will pretend to be representatives of well-known organisations, like a bank, phone company or government department like Centrelink or the Australian Tax Office to give them the air of legitimacy.
The scammer may say that the bank or organisation is verifying customer records due to a technical error that wiped out customer data. Or, they may ask you to fill out a customer survey and offer a prize for participating. These are all part of a scammer’s bag of tricks they use to get you to give up your valuable personal data,” Ms Rickard added.
Scammers can use their victims’ personal information to carry out fraudulent activities, such as using their credit cards, stealing their identity or scamming friends and family of the victim. Many victim reports to Scamwatch, for example, say they noticed a large increase in spam emails after phishing scammers obtained some of their personal information.
We’re so used to providing our personal information when we sign up for services over the phone or shop online that sometimes we don’t think twice about giving it out,” Ms Rickard commented.
However it’s very important you closely guard your personal information. Delete any email or hang up on a phone call that you receive out of the blue that is asking for your personal information—even if it purports to be from a well-known business or government organisation that you have previously dealt with and trust.
If you think your information has been stolen by a scammer, report it to the relevant institution immediately. For example, if you think they have your bank details, get in touch with your bank; if you think they have your login to a social media account, contact that site to report it. The sooner you can act, the better,” Ms Rickard concluded.