In an era of unprecedented digital transformation, Australians lost more than $2 billion to scams last year, as reported by Scam Watch. Meanwhile, our friends across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand fell victim to scams totalling over $69.8 million over the past five years, according to Stuff. These staggering figures serve as a stark reminder of the dangers lurking in the online world. As a marketing professional, I understand the importance of safeguarding your online presence and financial well-being. In this blog, I’ll provide you with three crucial steps to protect yourself online: using strong passwords, staying alert, and reporting attacks, scams, and fraud.
One cardinal rule in the online world is to always remain vigilant. If an offer or opportunity sounds too good to be true or seems even slightly suspicious, it’s essential to exercise caution. Scammers often prey on our desire for quick and easy solutions, so don’t let anyone pressure you into making hasty decisions. Instead, take your time to ask questions and conduct thorough research. Rely on reputable websites and sources you trust to verify the legitimacy of a company or individual.
Types of Scams to Look Out For:
Online scams come in various forms, but they all share the same goal: deceiving you to part with your money or personal information. Here are some of the most prevalent online scams you should be aware of:
- Job and Employment Scams: Be wary of enticing “work-from-home” job offers that require upfront payments for training or materials.
- Phishing Scams: Scammers send fraudulent emails or messages impersonating trusted entities, aiming to trick you into revealing sensitive information like passwords and credit card details.
- Tech Support Scams: Fraudsters pose as tech experts and deceive you into paying for unnecessary services or installing malware on your device.
- Lottery or Prize Scams: Unsolicited messages claiming you’ve won a prize often require you to pay a fee or provide personal details to claim it.
- Online Shopping and Auction Scams: Beware of fake online stores that either never deliver purchased items or provide subpar, counterfeit products.
- Investment Scams: Promises of high returns with low risks can be signs of Ponzi or pyramid schemes.
- Romance Scams: Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites, gradually convincing victims to send money under pretences.
- Rental Scams: Fake rental listings aim to extract deposits or rent payments before victims realize the property doesn’t exist.
- Fake Antivirus Software: Pop-ups claiming your computer is infected push you to buy bogus antivirus software, which may contain malware.
- Cryptocurrency Scams: Be cautious of investment opportunities that promise unrealistically high returns, fake initial coin offerings (ICOs), and phishing attempts.
- Gift Card Scams: Scammers convince victims to purchase gift cards and share the codes as a form of payment.
- Social Media Scams: Watch out for clickbait links leading to malicious sites, fake celebrity endorsements, or friends and family impersonations requesting money.
- Tax-Related Scams: Fake tax agencies threaten legal action unless immediate payment is made.
- Ransomware: Malicious software encrypts your data, with scammers demanding payment (usually in cryptocurrency) to unlock it.
Remember, scammers continuously evolve their tactics. Staying informed and exercising caution online is crucial, especially when dealing with unsolicited communications or offers that seem too good to be true.
Use Strong Passwords:
Using strong, unique passwords is a fundamental aspect of online security. Here are some tips to help you fortify your online defences:
- Use a password generator to create complex, difficult-to-guess passwords.
- Never reuse passwords across multiple accounts.
- Avoid sharing passwords through email, text messages, or written notes.
- Create passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. Leading tech companies like Google and Microsoft offer this added layer of security.
Report Attacks, Scams, and Fraud:
When you encounter or fall victim to an attack, scam, or fraud, it’s essential to report it promptly. Reporting not only helps authorities track down scammers but also raises awareness in the community. Here are some valuable resources to report and seek assistance:
- ACCC Scamwatch (Australia): Report a Scam
- ATO Scam Line (Australia): Call 1800 008 540 to check the legitimacy of calls, texts, or emails, or report a scam online at ato.gov.au/scams.
- NetSafe (New Zealand): Visit their website for information on staying safe online.
- New Zealand Police (New Zealand): Access their Internet Scams, Spam, and Fraud page for guidance.
Additionally, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has introduced the ‘Have you been hacked?’ tool to help assess potential hacking incidents. This tool guides you through various scenarios, providing advice on how to respond effectively to situations like ransomware attacks, malware threats, email compromises, identity theft, phishing, and fake website scams.
As the digital landscape continues to expand, protecting yourself online is non-negotiable. Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it vital to stay informed and employ the best practices discussed in this article. By using strong passwords, staying alert, and promptly reporting scams, attacks, and fraud, you can help create a safer online environment for yourself and others. Don’t wait until it’s too late—take action now to fortify your online defences and keep your hard-earned money and personal information secure.