Inside a scammer’s bag of tricks

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), this year, older Australians have lost almost as much money to phishing scams as all other age groups combined.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said this month (June 2017) it had received 11,000 reports of phishing scams so far in 2017, some of which had led to a total loss of $260,000. Of that figure, $113,000 was conned out of people aged 65 and over. Those aged between 55 and 64 lost about $22,000.

A scammer starts phishing by stealthily obtaining a victim’s personal information, such as birthdate, passwords, credit card and bank account details. They pretend they are from a reputable company to win trust and then they use the details to commit fraud in the victim’s name.

The vast majority of scammers use either via the phone or email, according to ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard. “They pretend to be representatives of well-known organisations, like a bank, phone company or government agency, such as Centrelink or the Australian Tax Office (ATO), to give them the air of legitimacy.”

An ACCC spokesman told YourLifeChoices that reports of scammers purporting to be from the ATO or Microsoft were increasing. “We hear many accounts of people being called by someone who says they need remote access to your computer to supposedly fix a fault,” he said.

“Scammers who claim to be from the tax office inform the victim they are either entitled to a refund or have to pay back a certain amount in 20 minutes, otherwise they will send the police around.”

People who have been stung don’t necessarily lose money straight away. The ACCC says the stolen details are often used down the track, long after the victim may have forgotten receiving the phishing call.

Ms Rickard added: “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. The scammer may say that the bank or [another] 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.

“Delete any email or hang up on an unexpected phone call if someone is asking for your personal information – even if they purport 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.

People concerned about phishing scams should visit www.scamwatch.gov.au

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Written by Olga Galacho

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