The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Targeting Scams Report reveals that 91,637 Australians scam complaints were made to the ACCC last year, with $81,832,793 reported lost.
“This Fraud Week, the ACCC is urging consumers to ‘Get smarter with their data’ as stolen personal information underpins almost every scam reported. Scammers are stealing not only your money but also your data, which they then use to commit identity theft or to sell to other scammers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Your personal data is a valued commodity – and one that you cannot put too high a price on when it comes to protecting it. Unfortunately, scammers also recognise the value of your personal information and will go to great lengths to steal it.”
In 2014, online dating scams remained the number one scam for financial losses with almost $28 million reported lost - despite making up only three per cent of all scam reports.
The next highest reported losses were investment fraud and computer prediction software scams, both of which are often dressed up as legitimate investment opportunities. These two scams accounted for 26 per cent of reported losses and over $21 million dollars lost.
“Increasingly, scammers are using personal information gleaned from social media profiles to target victims for a fraudulent relationship or investment. Scammers are constantly ‘phishing’ for your personal details such as your name, address and birthdate and this will only increase to as your personal data becomes more valuable to them,” Ms Rickard said.
“Get smarter with your data and keep it out of the hands of scammers.”
- Keep your personal details secure: Lock your mailbox, and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing out. Be careful sharing information about yourself online, including social media, blogs and other online forums.
- Think twice about what you say and do in an online environment: Stop and think before filling in surveys, entering competitions, clicking on links or attachments, or even ‘befriending’, ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ something.
- 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 Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
- Choose your passwords carefully: 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.
- Beware of any request for your details or money: Use the phone book or an online search to check the organisation’s contact details. NEVER use the contact details provided in the original request.
- Get a copy of your credit report: You can get a free copy of your report every year to check that no-one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts. Find out how to get your free credit report on ASIC's MoneySmart website.
The ACCC’s short animated video ‘Get smarter with your data’ is available at www.scamwatch.gov.au
If you think your banking details have been compromised, you should contact your bank or credit union immediately to let them know. If you think your identity information has been stolen, you should contact iDcare - a free government-industry service www.idcare.org or call 1300 IDCARE (432273).
The ACCC is continuing to alert potential victims to devastating online dating scams through our Scam Disruption Project. The project uses financial intelligence to identify individuals sending funds to high risk jurisdictions and warns them they may be a scam victim. Early results are promising with 70 per cent, of those that were warned of the perils of sending funds offshore, ceasing to send funds for at least a six week period. Of those that were sent a letter and subsequently confirmed as victims, 75 per cent were involved in online dating scams.