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How to protect yourself from online scams

09 Nov 2023 3 min read

Being aware of online scams has become a part of modern living. As the use of digital devices increases, along with more services being delivered online, we must become competent in identifying potential scams.

What are online scams?

Scammers will use email, text messages, phone calls or social media to pretend to be a person or organisation that you trust. The goal is to scam you into paying money or giving away personal information.1

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reports that 96% of scams happen through digital communication.2

Scamwatch outlines the different types of online scams, including:

  • Romance scams – scammers create a relationship with you and then attempt to manipulate you for money.
  • Investment scams – scammers will contact you with fake money-making schemes and try and get your money.
  • Product and services scams – scammers sell illegitimate products or services.
  • Threats and extortion scams – scammers will try to steal your identity or threaten to ‘infect’ or ‘highjack’ your computer unless you give them money.
  • Jobs and employment scams – scammers will ask for money to secure a fake job opportunity.
  • Unexpected money – scammers will ask for your personal details to send you a ‘prize’ for a competition.
  • Impersonation scams – when the scammers are using someone else’s identity to steal money or other benefits.

How to protect yourself from scams

Unfortunately, scams are becoming more sophisticated. For example, emails from scammers can include official-looking logos and email addresses, making it harder to detect what is authentic and what is a scam.

But the good news is, there are ways you can protect yourself. The Australian Government recommends following these steps.

  1. Check first before clicking on any links, opening any attachments or providing any information.
  2. Contact the organisation the communication is supposedly from, for example, a bank or healthcare provider. Search for the official website and phone number. Many reputable organisations will even have statements on their websites outlining that they will never ask for your personal information, such as your password – so if this happens, you know it’s a scam.
  3. Contact the organisation directly and ask if they have sent the communication.

How to spot fake communication:

Red flags you can look out for, include:

  • multiple spelling mistakes
  • communication isn’t personalised, e.g. Dear user, or no greeting at all
  • a sense of urgency - asking you to fill something out or provide details
  • a request to click on a link or open an attachment
  • link/s to a fake website that asks you to enter your details – check the web domain and how it’s presented
  • email address or sender details aren’t from an official email or sender – this one is trickier as scammers are becoming better at presenting their information. If in doubt, always check.

How to stay on top of common scams

It’s a good idea to keep across common types of scams. For example, during the COVID pandemic, there was a rise in scams around selling masks and hand sanitiser. You can stay across current scams by visiting Scamwatch, which releases regular news and scam alerts.

You can also keep building your scam-detecting skills by visiting The Australian Signals Directorate's Australian Cyber Security Centre (ASD's ACSC). There are plenty of resources, including a newsletter that you can sign up for, plus a quiz to test how likely you are to spot a scam.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of a scam

If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, there are several steps you can take.

  1. If you have paid the scammer, contact your bank, report the scam and ask them to stop any transactions. If you have provided any personal details, including an address, identity documents and so on, also let your bank know, as well as any other financial institutions, including your super fund. You can also contact IDCARE – an organisation that supports individuals who have experienced data breaches.
  2. It’s also a good idea to create new passwords on any accounts connected to your bank, or depending on the nature of the scam, you may want to update your computer login and email password.
  3. Report the scam - you can report the scam here.

Being scammed can be upsetting, unsettling and frustrating. However, it’s important to understand that it’s common. Being scammed can happen to anyone.3 Cyber security has become a key priority for many organisations. Many organisations, including NGS, are working hard to implement measures and strategies to protect your data.

If you are concerned about your finances, NGS has financial planners and super specialists who can talk to you. You can also access various national helplines here, as well as other support services, including:

Beyond Blue

1300 22 4636 or online chat (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Lifeline

13 11 14 or online crisis support chat (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

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