Government warning to beware of online cyber grinches

The Australian government is warning consumers to beware of cyber grinches as they navigate their way around online sales in the lead-up to Christmas and beyond.

Assistant minister for defence Andrew Hastie urged Australians to be alert to cybercriminals seeking to steal their money and personal information via online shopping fraud.

“We all love browsing online for a bargain and it’s a convenient way for many of us to do our Christmas shopping at this time of year, but if you are not alert you could get taken in by fraudulent deals,” Mr Hastie said.

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“Last financial year the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) received over 11,000 reports of online shopping cybercrime, making up about 17 per cent of all reports to the ACSC’s ReportCyber during this period – and one cybercrime was reported every eight minutes.

“Businesses are already recognising the ACSC’s warnings, with the Australian Retailers Association partnering with the ACSC to promote secure online shopping.”

Australians are expected to spend more than $58 billion on pre-Christmas shopping, according to the Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan, with a significant proportion to come from online sales.

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“Just as Australians are picky about where they shop in the real world, they also need to choose their online stores wisely so they are not exploited or targeted,” Mr Hastie said.

“Watch out for cybercriminals who use tricks like selling products that don’t exist, impersonating well-known brands but offering spectacular sales, or asking for personal and payment information they don’t need.

“If an online deal seems too good to be true – it probably is.”

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As part of the rolling ‘Act Now, Stay Secure’ cyber security campaign, an online security shopping list for Australians to use ahead of this festive season is available at cyber.gov.au.

“We know from the recent ACSC Annual Cyber Threat Report 2020-21 that the complexity and sophistication of cyber threats continues to rise,” Mr Hastie said.

“Australians are expected to spend billions this festive season. The ACSC recommends only buying from trusted sellers, always using secure payment methods such as PayPal or credit card at checkout, and never clicking on a link in an email or SMS to verify an order.”

If you are the victim of an online shopping cybercrime, you should immediately report it to authorities via ReportCyber and contact your bank or financial institution.

The ACSC’s secure online shopping checklist recommends:

  • Using trusted sellers. Research online shopping websites before you buy and stick to well-known trusted brands.
  • Be aware of fake sellers. Check logos, business names, URL addresses and contact details against the company’s website. If they don’t match up, have different sizing or colours, steer clear.
  • Use secure payment methods. Pay by PayPal or your credit card, never pay by direct bank deposits or money transfers.
  • Check to make sure it is a reputable site. Look for the padlock symbol and ‘https’ at the start of the web address (not http).

Have you ever fallen for an online shopping scam? How much money did you lose? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben

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