Scams and instances of fraud are on the rise as they become increasingly sophisticated and convincing. These scams pose considerable financial and privacy risks for Australians of all ages. The ABS has suggested that 11% of Australians were victims of personal fraud in 2020-2021 which has risen from 8.5% in 2014-2015. The following article will outline some ways to identify and avoid these fraudulent schemes which can help to reduce the chances of your personal or financial information being accessed and used.
What are scams?
A scam is an illegal trick to deceive an individual into providing personal information which scammers can then use to steal an individual’s money or identity. They target people of all ages and backgrounds and often succeed because they catch individuals off guard and often look like the real thing. Scammers have access to different kinds of technology which can enable them to hack systems including your phones, emails, and social media. There are a range of different ways that a person can be scammed and include SMS and email scams, online shopping scams, romance and dating scams, investment scams as well as threat and penalty scams.
Ways to identify and avoid scams
Below are some simple ways to identify information that may be a scam and ways to minimise the chances of scammers gaining access to your information or money.
Clues for spotting a fake document
Documents and emails can easily be faked and copied. Below are some indicators to look out for which may suggest that a scammer is trying to gain access to your information or potentially steal your money.
- Generic names rather than a personal greeting
- Names of organisations that do not exist
- Poor quality presentation
- Poor quality grammar and spelling
- Overly official or forced language
Always be suspicious
A good starting point to identify scams is to always be suspicious of information that seems too good to be true, because it probably is. If you receive an unexpected email from a random email address do not always take this at face value. If you always consider the potential that an email, text message or phone number from an unknown contact or address may be a scam, this will help you to be more discerning of what you should and shouldn’t believe.
An excellent way to avoid getting scammed completely is to not reply, answer or click on any suspicious information. Once you click on the scam, this often provides them with access to your information and therefore deleting the information or hanging up on a call immediately is often the best course of action. You may be able to identify suspicious information if the phone number is unknown and/or from an overseas country, if the email is unfamiliar and you have never been in contact with them before or if random text messages which give you a link to click. It is also important to remember that these scammers may be posing as a company that you have been in contact with before such as Telstra or My Gov, however, it is important to remember that it is highly unlikely these companies would be contacting individuals out of the blue.
Do some research
If you encounter an unfamiliar business or address, you should consider conducting some personal research prior to responding to the email or text message. Always double-check the spelling of the address and compare this with what that business has on its website or their prior contact with you. If you receive an email or text from a ‘friend’ which seems usual or out of character, contact that person directly using a separate phone or email address to see if it really was them. This simple phone call could help you to avoid being scammed and ensure that you are protecting your personal and financial information.
Keep your personal details and information secure
Another way to protect yourself against scams is to ensure that you store your personal information securely. Keep your passwords in an online safe and shred documents that may have confidential information on them. Also try and avoid putting excess information on social media and other online sites which have the potential to be hacked. Being aware and privy to what information you put into cyberspace can also help you to reduce the likelihood of this information being accessed and used by scammers.
Be careful with your passwords
A very easy way for scammers to gain access to your accounts and personal information is through passwords that are predictable and easy to guess. Choosing difficult passwords with a range of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols as well as updating them regularly will minimise the ability for hackers to guess your passwords, particularly when they are different for each account.
What to do if you are hacked?
If you have been hacked, you need to act quickly to minimise what scammers have access to. You should contact your friends and family to let them know about a potential scam, particularly if it is a scammer posing to be someone you know. You should also inform your financial institution to stop any transactions which are yet to be processed as well as lock any accounts or cards which scammers have the information to access. If you suspect that your identity has been stolen you can contact IDCARE, which is a free government-funded service that can assist you with the process of recovering your identity.