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Scams and the internet

The internet can be a great asset in everyday life. It’s great for socialising, research and entertainment. However, there can be a lot that lurks underneath the glossy exterior. One vicious aspect of the online world is scamming.

What are internet scams?

Online scams are a type of fraud, designed to lure victims into giving up personal information or money. 

Generally, scams arrive via email and target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. They tend to succeed for two reasons.

Firstly, they appear genuine and are designed to look legitimate. Secondly, scammers manipulate you to produce the automatic response. Many scams are to do with the way individuals are wired socially and emotionally and tend to push your buttons. 

Millions of these spam emails are sent out to random email addresses daily. As a general rule, be wary of unsolicited emails that contain any of the following phrases or ideas:

  • Promise you money, jobs or prizes
  • Ask for donations
  • Propose business deals
  • Ask you personal information
  • Ask you to follow a link.

What kind of scams will affect me?

Well-known scams include Nigerian, lottery and phisher scams, all of which entice the recipient into a conversation and eventually probe them for bank account details to deposit funds or personal information.

Phisher scams can look genuinely real. Examples include emails from a bank or an online service requesting you to click a link and input some information. Scammers often create a website that looks almost identical to the one you’re expecting to find when you click on the link and the aim is to capture as much information that the scammer can use as possible, including addresses, passwords and banking details.

It’s important to remember that banks, financial institutions and other companies that contain sensitive and private information would not request such information from customers over email.

Nigerian scams, otherwise known as 419 scams, request that the recipient help the sender to access money in a foreign bank account. It promises the recipient a cut in return for his or her help. In reality, there is no large amount of money. There is no money at all. It’s a ploy to pull whoever replies deeper into the scam and eventually obtain money from them or steal his or her identity. Some of these scams can also pull at your heartstrings and claim to be a charity or not-for-profit organisation. Do not respond to any such email in any way.

Lottery scams are also popular. They claim that the recipient has received a huge amount of money, sometimes into the millions, even though you have never even bought a ticket. If you reply to this email, you’ll be asked to provide a lot of personal information which will then be used to commit identity theft and you’ll probably be asked to send money to cover the costs of delivering your supposed winnings.

Be clever

The Australian Federal Police recommends the ‘physical world’ test, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Their website also advises to delete any email that seems suspicious. Following any links could result in a virus being automatically downloaded onto your computer, which could further result in personal information being obtained. 

As a general rule, if you don’t know the person who has sent you an email, it’s a good idea not to click on any links or engage in a conversation. 

For more information

There are websites around with some good advice on what scams are out there and how to deal with them or avoid them all together.

Scam Watch:
Australian Federal Police:
Stay Smart Online:

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