Just as the internet continues to surprise us every day, so too does the sophistication of online scams.
It’s good to stay in the know with the cyber dark arts so you can quickly spot areas of concern.
Here are some tips on how to avoid online scams.
Keeping your computer secure
The first place to start is right under your nose. Spyware and Malware can snoop on your internet activities on your phone and computer.
Here’s what you can do to protect your computer:
- Install a reliable internet security program
- Cover the camera on your laptop or computer (as certain Spyware allows the scammer to watch you and learn your everyday movements)
- Regularly update your browser and operating system
- Scan your USB sticks (and other removable media devices) before you use them
- Disable autorun programs on your computer
- Don’t open emails from unknown sources
Phishing is where criminals attempt to get your personal details. This could include things like bank account numbers, credit card numbers and most importantly your passwords.
Normally the scammer portrays themselves as a trustworthy and genuine source through an email or text.
Phishing messages are designed to look genuine and will copy the format used by the organisation that the scammer is pretending to be.
Do not click on any phishing communication, or any attachments or links contained within that communication.
This is a scam where your charge card numbers are stolen, often through card processing gadgets. For example, a device might be placed over the top of the card reader at an ATM to try and record your account numbers.
How to avoid skimming scams
Naturally, you should immediately contact your bank if you suspect there is something unusual going on, but it’s better to avoid the problem by making it harder for criminals to steal your information.
- Choose an ATM that looks like it’s in a secure location (ie the location has visible security cameras), like a bank
- Give the card reader a little jiggle before you use it. If it’s loose, there’s a good chance that it’s dodgy.
If you think that you’ve been skimmed, call the ATM’s bank and your bank straight away.
“Porting” happens when someone steals your personal information to transfer your mobile phone number to them without your knowledge or consent.
This can happen by the scammer:
- setting up a new account with different phone company (by pretending to be you) and then porting your number; or
- contacting your existing phone company pretending to be you and requesting a new SIM card which contains your number, for use on their mobile.
Once transferred, your stolen mobile phone number can be used to receive SMS verification codes and allowing that person to access your personal services, such as your bank, email and social media accounts.
You’ll know your phone number has been ported if you unexpectedly lose phone reception or coverage (you’re unable to make or receive calls or messages) and your phone goes to ‘SOS only’ when everyone else has reception bars.
How to protect your phone from being ported
Noting that scammers still need your personal information to port your phone (including your full name, mobile phone number, date of birth and answers to security questions), you should be extra careful with your personal information online.
Some handy tips to prevent porting are below:
- Hide your mobile phone number from public viewing in your social media profiles. You can Google your mobile phone number to see where it shows up and have it taken down.
- Remove your birth date from public view (similar to your mobile phone number) – keep in mind that a scammer can work out your birth date from photos or posts on social media.
- Scammers can gain your personal information from your personal mail, so make sure you have a lock on your letterbox or consider using a PO Box.
- Keep the PIN numbers and passwords you use for telephone companies and banks secret.
Unsolicited phone calls
Sometimes a scam will start with a phone call you didn’t ask for from a person or company you don’t know.
Some examples of unsolicited phone scams are:
- The scammer says you need to make a payment or confirm your bank details.
- The scammer mentions a service you didn’t sign up for and needs your details to process it
- You receive an automated voice call asking for sensitive information
If in doubt, call the company’s general line phone number advertised on their official website to confirm they called you.
However, be wary that if you’ve never heard of the company before, the website may be set up to make the scam more credible.
If you’d like more information about what to do if you fall victim to a scam, head to Scamwatch. They have some fantastic resources, and will guide you on how to handle the situation.