Scams seem to be everywhere at the moment and, while you may think you wouldn’t fall for one yourself, they’re also getting a lot more sophisticated.
In fact, in January this year, Aussies reported more than $53 million in losses to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch.
To put that in perspective, in January 2021, Aussies lost $21 million, while in January 2022, that number jumped by more than half to $33 million.
These shocking figures paint a picture that not only are scams on the rise, but Aussies are losing more and more money to criminals.
So, here are some quick tips to make sure you avoid falling victim to cyber criminals.
1. Pay attention to spelling and grammar
It may sound obvious but poor spelling and grammar are major red flags when it comes to scams. If even one word is spelt incorrectly, or you notice a sentence in an email or text that is a string of words without punctuation - think twice before clicking any links.
While this is just one example of a red flag, keep in mind that criminals are now using AI, like ChatGPT, to draft scam messages to people to avoid this issue.
“Because the barrier to entry is so low and it’s currently a free service, even non-technical individuals can use it to create and use malicious content,” MailGuard said.
So, being aware of it is good but, even if you do get a message with perfect spelling and grammar, still think twice.
2. When in doubt, double-check
Did you get a text from your bank about “suspicious activity” on your account? Look for the bank’s official phone number and call them.
But what if the bank has called you about suspicious activity? Hang up the phone and call the bank back on its official number. The person working in the fraud team for the bank is not going to be upset that you want to be the one to call them to ensure they really are who they say they are.
Keep in mind that just because a text message or phone call appears to come from a legitimate source on your phone does not mean it is. Scammers use a technique known as “spoofing” to copy the sender information of an official company or government organisation.
If you receive a text or Whatsapp message from a family member, do the same and contact them directly on the number you have saved that you know is theirs.
3. Automated calls are not your friend
If you receive a phone call and immediately hear an automated message purporting to be from a government agency like the Australian Federal Police or the Australian Taxation Office, hang up immediately.
This is not how official government organisations will contact you. Again, if in doubt, double-check.
4. You CAN put a price on love
Romance scams have run wild recently, with more than $135 million lost over the past three years.
Romance scams can affect anyone, and cyber criminals will pull on your heart strings to get their pay day.
If you have met someone online who happens to need money, or who has found themselves in a shocking situation out of the blue and needs your help, think twice - especially if you have never met them in person.