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'Devastating': Aussies working from home conned out of $3.3 million

Anastasia Santoreneos
·3-min read
Australians working from home were in for a nasty surprise. Source: Getty
Australians working from home were in for a nasty surprise. Source: Getty

Around 9 million Australians have received a scam text or phone call since lockdown began in March, with thousands conned out of more than $3 million, new data reveals.

A survey conducted by Finder found a whopping 47 per cent of Aussies aged 18 and above had been on the receiving end of a scam, and thousands had their personal details stolen as a result.

According to Scamwatch figures, Aussies had lost over $3.3 million to scammers during the pandemic, with identity theft up 55 per cent compared to last year.

The most common scams were government impersonation scams, superannuation scams and online shopping scams, with those working from home the perfect bait for tricksters.

“Millions of Aussies switched to online work and learning at the start of the outbreak, and scammers were waiting,” Finder editor-in-chief, Angus Kidman said.

“They generally call or text pretending to be from a government office such as the ATO, MyGov or the Health Department, and convince people to provide personal information like their bank account details or license number as proof of identity.

“This is devastating for victims once they realise what has happened, especially if they are already doing it tough during Covid.”

Kidman warned some were even scammed without knowing it.

“Keep a close eye on your transaction history. You may not know you’ve fallen victim to a scam until it's too late, and funds have been deducted from your account,” he said.

“If this is the case, contact your bank immediately, cancel your card and begin the transaction dispute process.”

How do I protect myself against scams?

Scammers are keeping an eye on government announcements, making their messages timely and convincing, so you’ll need to be extra careful during this time.

Fraudsters don’t want to give you time to think things through, so if a text or call is demanding action immediately, you should question the urgency of it.

Be cautious with your details, too. “Never feel pressured to give personal information away over the phone, no matter who the call or text is supposedly coming from,” Kidman said.

And, if you’re shopping online, make sure the website is using a secure server. The URL should start with ‘https’ rather than ‘http’.

Don’t open email attachments if they are from an unknown source. “There have been phishing emails and texts appearing to come from well-known companies such as the World Health Organisation and the ATO, so it always pays to be cautious.”

Lastly, if you’re still not sure, verify your message with a credible source. Ask your friends or family if they’ve received a similar message, and check Scamwatch for any updates on new scams doing the rounds.

Are you a millennial or Gen Z-er interested in joining a community where you can learn how to take control of your money? Join us at The Broke Millennials Club on Facebook!