How to protect yourself from fraud

John received an email which appeared to be from his banks asking him to key in his login details to keep up with their “systems upgrade”. The email looked authentic so John thought it was for real. He clicked on the link they had provided in the e-mail and keyed in his password there. The next day, when John used his Eftpost card, he was shocked to discover that his payment was declined. All his money had been withdrawn by an unknown person.

The truth is, scams target everyone. They target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. It’s not only the naïve and gullible who fall victim; all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time. Even the Brisbane City Council managed to be fooled by scammers which cost them $450 million where monies were transfered into fake accounts using legit processes.

Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. They exploit your desire to be polite and respectful, as well as your generosity, compassion and good nature.

Want to protect yourself? According to Scamwatch, these steps can help you.

Protect yourself 
Be alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it’s over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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Know who you’re dealing with
If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them.

Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails – delete them
If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don’t use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

Keep your personal details secure
Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

Keep your mobile devices and computers secure
Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.

Choose your passwords carefully
Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.

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Beware of any requests for your details or money
Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

Be careful when shopping online
Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Think twice before using virtual currencies (like bitcoin) – they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods, which means you can’t get your money back once you send it. Learn more about online shopping scams.

If you think you have been scammed, call: 

Banking Your bank or financial institution
Cybercrime Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network
Financial and investment scams Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Fraud and theft Your local police – call 131 444
Spam Australian Communications and Media Authority
Tax related scams Australian Taxation Office
Other scams ACCC via Scamwatch

Do you take measures to protect yourself from being a victim?