‘Phishing’ scams are on the rise and older Aussies are the target

Watch out for anyone asking for your personal information online or over the phone.

Australians aged 65 and over are the biggest targets for phishing scams, according to Australia’s consumer watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning older Aussies to stay alert after it revealed that $260,000 had been lost since the beginning of the year to this type of scam.

Phishing is the practice of sending emails, or cold calling, in an attempt to trick potential victims into clicking on a link or revealing personal information, usually by pretending to be a known or trusted brand or government department –  a lot like actual fishing in that the scammer will throw out a “line” numerous times until the victim takes the bait.

Read more: Outsmart the online scammers with up-to-date security tips

“Scammers use phishing to trick their victims into giving out valuable personal information such as their bank account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers or even their online passwords for their PayPal, Apple or social media accounts,” ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.

If you’ve recently received an unsolicited email or phone call from a business or government department asking for any of your personal information, you may have been phished. 

“Any personal information you have is potentially valuable to a scammer and they will try to get it off you in a variety of ways,” Rickard said. “The vast majority come either via the phone or email. The scammers will pretend to be representatives of well-known organisations, like a bank, phone company or government department like Centrelink or the Australian Tax Office to give them the air of legitimacy.”

Read moreCustomers warned of nasty new bank scam

Scamwatch said phishing scams were the most commonly reported, with complaints 63 per cent higher on that type of scam than the next most common category. 

“The scammer may say that the bank or organisation is verifying customer records due to a technical error that wiped out customer data,” Rickard continued.

“Or, they may ask you to fill out a customer survey and offer a prize for participating. These are all part of a scammer’s bag of tricks they use to get you to give up your valuable personal data. We’re so used to providing our personal information when we sign up for services over the phone or shop online that sometimes we don’t think twice about giving it out.”

Rickard stressed the importance of closely guarding your personal information.

“Delete any email or hang up on a phone call that you receive out of the blue that is asking for your personal information—even if it purports to be from a well-known business or government organisation that you have previously dealt with and trust,” she warned.

“If you think your information has been stolen by a scammer, report it to the relevant institution immediately. For example, if you think they have your bank details, get in touch with your bank; if you think they have your login to a social media account, contact that site to report it. The sooner you can act, the better.”

If you’re concerned about phishing scams, ACCC said to visit: www.scamwatch.gov.au to learn more about the warning signs and how to protect yourself.

Have you fallen victim to a phishing scam? Do you worry about your online security?

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