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The most common online scams in Australia

by Helen J. Wolf
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Online scammers no longer prey on the most vulnerable in society. No one is safe from online scammers, and many of these scammers have taken advantage of the pandemic and are using this confusing time to attack more people than ever.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that Australian citizens lost a record $851 million to scams during the pandemic, and these massive losses show no sign of abating. But we can work together to be more scam aware, and there are things you can do to avoid falling victim to scams. Here’s an overview of the most common online scams in Australia and how to avoid them:

The most common online scams in Australia

Hijack your accounts.

Online scams are becoming more sophisticated, and many scammers can use high technical knowledge to separate their targets from their money. One of the most common online scams is also one of the simplest: if you don’t have adequate internet security in place to protect your devices (including both your computer and your phone), scammers can easily hack into your accounts and gain access to you. IThis is especially easy if you connect to the Internet through an open or public Wi-Fi network. Identity. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent this.

First, you must ensure your online passwords are as strong as possible, and you are advised not to use the same password for all your accounts. That way, if an online scammer has access to your private information, they may not be able to access the widest spectrum of your funds. You are also strongly advised to secure a VPN for your virtual private network for your router, both in your home and office, to enhance your internet security further. VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and disguise your online identity: this means that they make it much more difficult for third parties to track your online behavior and activities, and therefore they are much less likely to steal your data.

Withdrawing money from a foreign account

If you receive a text or email from a friend, relative, or even your boss asking you to send money to a foreign account, you are strongly advised to ignore it. When in doubt, call the person in question to get verbal confirmation that their request is valid.

This is the most popular online scam and one that is widely published across Australia. Individuals and businesses can fall victim to these scams, and often the scammers will ask you to transfer money through a money transfer company such as Western Union or Moneygram because cash collection through these types of services is both fast and discreet. When making international money transfers from Australia, use a reputable company that secures your transaction and flags suspicious transactions with your bank.

You can protect yourself from this type of scam by verbally communicating with your friends, co-workers, or relatives to ensure that the transaction you are being asked to do is legitimate. You can also use a reputable money transfer company, and if you’re sure you’re making a transaction, don’t.

Buying and Selling Scams Online

If you are buying or selling online, it is important to be aware of scams, as these trades carry a higher risk of being exploited by scammers. This is especially true if you buy or sell through online advertising sites, where scammers often lurk. A common scam is to pretend to be a real seller and place an ad for an item with a high price: this item can be anything, but common examples are rental properties or lodging, pets, used cars, boats, bicycles, caravans, and horses.

These scam ads are difficult to spot as they often contain real photos stolen from other legitimate ads. When you respond to one of these advertisements, the scammer will ask you to pay for the goods before you see or receive them: they may claim to travel or relocate and pressure you to give them the payment by saying that other interested parties will get the goods if you don’t. If you pay them, the scammer will disappear with your money, and you will never receive the goods they never had!

The best way to protect yourself from these scams is to never pay for goods until you own them. Meet sellers to complete transactions in person and remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t use online classifieds to find services like vacation accommodations you can’t inspect before giving up your money: instead, use reputable online booking agents that are registered and regulated.

Lottery and Competition Scams

Lottery and competition scams are popular in Australia and are often carried out via email or post. Scammers will send you a letter or email letting you know you’ve won big money or great prizes in a raffle or sweepstakes contest. The awards will be incredibly attractive, but you won’t remember participating in this particular lottery or contest: and it’s at this point the alarm bells should start ringing.

The purpose of these scams is to trick you into giving the scammers money up front to secure your ‘prize’ or, increasingly, to share your personal information with the scammers (such as your name and address, date of birth, or even bank account details) so that they can hand you your prize. Another way this type of scam works is that you may have to call a premium phone number to secure your award. Thus the scammers get your money!

Remember, if you haven’t entered a contest or raffle, you won’t be able to win a prize. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Significant amounts of money or tips are rarely provided by email. If you enter a contest and have doubts, ask for the competition organization’s registered office address and company number and contact them directly. When in doubt, hit delete: don’t share your data with people you don’t know, and make it easy for scammers to get your hard-earned money!

Online Dating Scams

Finally, online dating scams specifically target people who want to find love online. Malicious scammers create fake dating profiles on legitimate dating websites and enter into relationships to extract money and personal information from their targets. Often, these relationships will build over several months, creating strong romantic and emotional connections, but without ever meeting in person. Once the scammer has developed a close relationship with his target, they will ask him for money. Often this is to cover costs related to illness, injury, travel, or a family crisis.

The best way to protect yourself from this scam is to never send money to anyone you have never met. Ask yourself why you haven’t met your new romantic connection yet: Remember that if someone seems too good to be true, they usually are. If you’re still not ready to give up the idea that the person you’ve “met” is real, try doing a Google image search using the images they’ve sent you of themselves: are they the person they say they are? Be careful with online dating: don’t share too much personal information online; always tell a friend or family member if you will meet someone you met online.

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