The online sphere – email, the internet, social media and mobile apps – has overtaken telephones as scammers’ preferred tool of the trade to contact potential victims.
So far in 2017, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch site has received more than 51,000 reports of scammers trying to con people online.
Online scam losses have totalled nearly $37 million so far in 2017, with people aged 45 to 54 most likely to lose money.
“It’s difficult to spot a scammer online these days as they go to great lengths to trick the public and steal personal information and money,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
The top three online scams that people are most likely to encounter are:
- Phishing – often delivered via email, scammers will pretend to be from well-known businesses and government departments to con unsuspecting victims out of their personal information and money. For example, they might say they’re from Apple and you need to reset your password for security reasons, or they may offer you a gift voucher to a major supermarket for completing a ‘survey’.
- False billing – scammers will pretend to be from a utility provider such as your phone or energy company, and send you a fake bill. These scams can be very hard to pick as the fake bills scammers send look authentic.
- Buying and selling – scammers will trick people who are looking to buy or sell goods online. For example, they may set up a fake online store that sells well-known brands at seemingly too-good-to-be-true prices; or they may set up a fake listing on a classifieds website.
Ms Rickard said there are some simple techniques that members of the public can employ to avoid being stung by an online scammer.
“While scammers are often after your money, they’re also trying to steal your personal information, which is just as valuable. It’s important to safeguard your personal details online the same way you would your wallet,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you’re ever contacted out of the blue, particularly via email, by someone asking you to pay a bill, complete a survey or update your passwords, it pays to be sceptical.
“If something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of something online like a store, classified listing or email you receive, do your own research, as others who have been stung by scammers will often post warnings for others. There are also plenty of very useful tips and advice at www.scamwatch.gov.au to avoid being stung by online scams,” Ms Rickard said.