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'Hang up': 24,000 Aussies attacked by ATO, NBN, MyGov scams

·3-min read
Pictured: Australian Tax Office, NBN worker, Australian cash. Images: Getty
The ATO and NBN Co have been popular covers for scams. Images: Getty

Australians have lost $91 million to scams in 2020 as Covid-19 desperation has clouded victims’ judgment.

Around 24,000 Australians have filed scam reports complaining of stolen personal information, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed on Monday, an increase in reports of 55 per cent on this time last year.

A lot of that is due to changing habits, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people working and socialising online, we have unfortunately seen a sharp increase in scammers seeking personal information,” Rickard said.

“Personal information, such as bank and superannuation details or passwords, are extremely valuable and scammers will try to steal them for their own financial gain. Our increased use of technology has created more opportunities for them to do so.”

She said scammers are after passport details, driver licenses, credit cards, tax statements, utility bills and Medicare card details so they can impersonate their victims.

And once scammers have those details, they can use it to access superannuation, bank accounts, to take out loans and even impersonate them on social media to solicit money from contacts.

“Scam victims who have lost personal information are vulnerable to further scams, fraud or identity theft,” Rickard said.

“If you do have your identity stolen, it can take years to recover and people can end up losing more than money. Not only time in trying to undo the damage done financially, but it can also impact greatly on your mental health.”

How do I protect myself from scams?

Embrace the cynic within. That is, don’t give away your personal information to people who have contacted you unless you’re 100 per cent certain they are legitimate.

Phishing scams, which see scammers impersonate well known bodies like the Australian Tax Office, are up 44 per cent, so it’s crucial that Australians are on guard against suspicious texts, emails and phone calls.

The NBN has also been a popular disguise for scammers, with NBN Co today also warning of the growing scams.

NBN scams cost Australians $900,000 in 2019, with the ‘Nicole from NBN’ robocall scam the most common example.

Scammers are using the names ‘Nicole’ and ‘Carol’ to send robocalls warning of a fake NBN invoice for payment. Scammers are also sending calls claiming harmful UV rays are coming from the victim’s computer, with a goal of allowing unmonitored remote access to the device.

“NBN Co is a wholesaler and does not make unsolicited calls to sell products, request remote access to computers through programs like Team Viewer, ask you to purchase gift cards in lieu of cash payments, threaten to disconnect your services, or request personal or financial details,” chief security officer Darren Kane said.

NBN Co said to remember it will never call and ask for access to your computer or threaten disconnection, and said Australians should never give an unsolicited caller remote access to their computer or share personal or financial information.

“If in doubt, hang up.”

If you’re sent a text message or email don’t click any attached links, even if they appear legitimate. Instead, navigate to that body or business’s website.

And remember to use strong passwords and install anti-virus software on your devices.

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