Insights: Article

Top 4 tips to avoid falling victim to online scams

It’s Scam Awareness Week and we want to make sure you are armed and equipped to tackle any online scams from spoof calls to dodgy emails. Online scams, of course, come in many forms – not just email. You may be more familiar with ‘call spoofing’ or spam calls – seemingly legitimate calls which are really from opportunistic scammers. These have increased significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Or maybe it’s that text message you received this morning saying you’ve won the lottery you didn’t enter. Despite scam numbers increasing, there are ways to avoid becoming the next target.

Here are our top four tips to save yourself from falling victim to some more commonly known online scams.

1. If you didn’t enter the competition, you didn’t win the competition

An email, text message or letter arrives out of nowhere, stating you have won a lot of money or a fantastic prize in a lottery or competition that you did not enter. These types of scams attempt to trick you into giving out your personal details or money (such as fees and taxes) upfront before the prize can be released.

It’s that old saying: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut and if in doubt, don’t engage.

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2. Check who sent the message

If you’re not 100% sure if the message you have received is legitimate, follow these simple steps to stay cyber safe:

  • Check out the sender’s app, website or business to confirm if it’s legitimate.
  • Don’t respond to the message or email, or call the number advertised unless you are 100% sure it’s safe.
  • Do not give out any personal information or payment/banking details.
  • Still not sure? Google the details to see if it’s one of the known online scams, and if it’s not, report it to ScamWatch.

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hands on a keyboard online scams

3. Think with your head, not your heart

Yes, even scammers are looking for ‘love’ – they love to scam. Scammers will use anything to earn your trust including online dating websites. Dating and romance scams attempt to play on human emotions so they will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, sometimes over the course of months or years. Once trust has been formed, scammers will ask for money, gifts or banking details, typically justified by a fake family crisis, fake illness or injury.

If you’re not 100% sure if the person you have been in contact with is legitimate, follow these simple steps to stay cyber safe:

  • Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories, and other signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to video call each other.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them before.
  • Be wary of requests for money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • If you’re still not sure, Google the details to see if it’s one of the known online scams, and if it’s not – report it to ScamWatch.

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4. Don’t reel in the big one – avoid phishing scams

One of the most common online scams is phishing. Sadly, it doesn’t involve a tasty scoop of fish and chips. Phishing is the act of using fraudulent messages to trick a person into revealing personal or sensitive information.

The pandemic has added to the volume of phishing scams out there, with scammers now pretending to be government agencies providing information on COVID-19 through text messages and emails ‘phishing’ for your information. These contain malicious links and attachments designed to steal your personal and financial information. More sophisticated phishing scams that have arisen from COVID-19 include criminals trying to sell vaccines, fake products such as face masks or anti-virus kits, or even pretending to be healthcare workers to try to gain access to your home or personal information.

Before clicking that link, here are some things to think about:

  • Always check the credentials of people or companies who contact you.
  • Take your time before deciding to part with money or information and if possible, seek advice.
  • When in doubt, Google it to find out if it’s one of the common online scams, and if it’s not – report it to ScamWatch.

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With these insights and tools at your disposal, you can continue the online scams awareness conversation with your loved ones, friends, and communities so that we can all protect ourselves. For more information about online scams, head to the Australian Government’s ScamWatch website. Stay safe and be vigilant!

You can find more handy cyber safety tips and information on our website.

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