The Internet has officially overtaken telephones as the preferred tool of scammers to rip off thousands of Australians every year.
Since the start of 2017, the ACCC’s Scamwatch site has received more than 51,000 reports of scammers trying to con people online.
Scam value of scam losses online is also adding up fast, with nearly $37 million lost in so far in 2017. People aged 45 to 54 are the most likely to lose money.
So what are the most common traps?
- Phishing Scams. These often arrive via email, with scammers pretending to be from a well-known business or government department. They con victims into handing over their personal information or 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’.
- Billing Scams. Scammers will pretend to be from a utility provider, like your power or phone 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 Scams. Crooks will trick people who are looking to buy or sell goods online. For example, they may set up a fake online store claiming to sell well-known brands at seemingly too-good-to-be-true prices.
The ACCC says there are some simple techniques the public can employ to avoid being stung by a scammer online.
It’s important to safeguard your personal details on the Internet, the same way you would your wallet. 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 it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
There are also plenty of very useful tips and advice at scamwatch.gov.au to help us all avoid being stung.