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Online scams to be aware of this festive season

“It wouldn’t happen to me.”

It’s easy to think this when online scams are happening to other people. Until they happen to us, of course. 

One of the reasons you might be susceptible to online scams is because cyber criminals are continually developing new ones to catch you off guard. No matter how alert you are, you only need to slip up once.

To help prevent this happening, here are some of the common scams doing the rounds now, and actions you can take to protect yourself.

Medicare and myGov scams 

In this scam, criminals send emails, claiming to represent Medicare or myGov. They ask you to update your Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) details to receive payment.

They may ask you to click a link. If you do, you might land on a fake myGov website. Scammers send traffic to web pages designed to extract your personal information and banking details. 

These scams can be particularly insidious, as scammers are known to use screenshots of official designs to achieve a level of apparent legitimacy.

“Hi Mum” scams 

If you’ve seen the “Hi Mum” scams, you’ve likely seen them on your phone.

Scammers are reaching mobile phone users by sending WhatsApp and SMS text messages, posing as their family or friends. 

The scammer will tell the recipient they are getting in touch from a different number because they have lost or damaged their phone. Their aim is to deceive the recipient into sharing personal information, or to deceive them into to sharing money to help pay a (bogus) phone bill, contractor, or grocery bill.

According to Scamwatch, 1,150 Australians fell victim to the “Hi Mum” scam in the first seven months of this year, incurring a loss of $2.6 million.  

Tolled roads scams

These scams involve criminals impersonating tolled road networks such as EastLink (Melbourne). Scammers send SMS text messages to members of the public, notifying them they are facing a fine for overdue fees, if they don’t pay urgently. 

These scams may direct you to a website that asks you to share sensitive login information that scammers can use to steal from you.

Fake charity scams

According to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), fake charities are becoming increasingly prevalent.

The festive season is a peak period for scammers to promote fake charities to manipulate the good will of donors.

It’s reported that Australians have already donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to fake charities this year. 

Protecting yourself from online scammers

There are some general principles to be aware to safeguard your personal information and finances when scammers are active:

  • Don’t underestimate the prevalence of online scams. By recognising scams are widespread, you are more likely to be vigilant.
  • If something seems suspicious, always trust your instincts. Treat it suspiciously.
  • If you are suspicious of an email, SMS, or other electronic communication you receive, copy the information into an online search. Often you’ll see that many others have received the same email and identified it as a scam.
  • Choose strong passwords. The better your password, the better protected you are against hackers and malware.
  • If you don’t know or trust a business or individual you are in contact with, never share your credit card details, online account details, or other personal information. Only use online shopping sites you trust.
  • Not always, but often, scammers’ communications will be poorer quality than those of professional organisations. If spelling is poor, graphic design is poor, or the tone of the message sounds off, pay special attention.

Online scams aren’t going anywhere, but by increasing your awareness of how cyber criminals operate, you can protect yourself.