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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Scams Awareness Week: dangers of identity theft

Its Scams Awareness Week 2020 (17-21 August) and Scamwatch – run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) – will be shining a light on the dangers of identity theft in scams. Scams involving loss of personal information cost Australians $15.8 million last year.

Scamwatch warns that Australians’ growing use of new technology gives scammers more opportunities to trick you into giving away valuable personal information. It is happening to ordinary Australians every single day.

So far this year, according to reports provided to the ACCC by web form and over the phone, almost $89.6 million has been lost to all scam types.

Scamwatch provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

About COVID-19 scams

Scamwatch has received over 3,600 scam reports mentioning the coronavirus with over $2,382,000 in reported losses since the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Common scams include phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams.

If you have been scammed or have seen a scam, you can make a report on the Scamwatch website, and find more information about where to get help.

Scamwatch urges everyone to be cautious and remain alert to coronavirus-related scams. Scammers are hoping that you have let your guard down. Do not provide your personal, banking or superannuation details to strangers who have approached you.

Scammers may pretend to have a connection with you. So it’s important to stop and check, even when you are approached by what you think is a trusted organisation.

Visit the Scamwatch news webpage for general warnings and media releases on COVID-19 scams.

Tips to protect yourself from these types of scams:

  • Don’t click on hyperlinks in text/social media messages or emails, even if it appears to come from a trusted source.
  • Go directly to the website through your browser. For example, to reach the MyGov website type ‘my.gov.au’ into your browser yourself.
  • Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details, even if they claim to be a from a reputable organisation or government authority — just press delete or hang up.

How scammers contact you

Scamwatch warns that during a crisis like COVID-19, you may be isolated and using online services more than ever, so it is important to think about who might be really contacting you. They may find you by:

  • calling you or coming to your door
  • contacting you via social media, email or text message
  • setting up websites that look real, and impersonating government, business or even your friends
  • collecting information about you so that when they make contact they are more convincing.

How you can help others

According to Scamwatch, you can help others by talking and sharing information about scams when connecting with your friends, family and colleagues.

Ask the businesses you connect with regularly about scams they see, how they can protect you and how you can protect yourself.

If you use social media or particular apps, learn how to report scams to them and choose services that will identify and remove scammers from their platform or website.

Ask your bank or financial institution about how to protect your financial information and how they will help you if you get scammed.

Government, law enforcement, individuals and businesses all play an important role in helping to protect the community from scams.

This is Not Your Life’ podcast: subscribe and listen from 17 August

From the makers of ABC consumer affairs TV show ‘The Checkout’, a new podcast parodies the classic TV show ‘This Is Your Life’ to provide useful information on how to avoid scams and protect your identity. 

You can subscribe to the ‘This is Not Your Life‘ podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or TuneIn.

Scams Awareness Week runs from 17 to 21 August as part of a national campaign by the Scams Awareness Network.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts