Knowing how to protect yourself from online scams is very important in this day and age. In 2021 alone, Australians recorded a combined loss of $323 million dollars to scammers nation-wide. These figures are staggering and seem to only be on the rise. Unfortunately, our elderly population seem to be the most frequently targeted by these scams as well. Luckily, there are some simple ways you can protect yourself or your loved ones from these scams and stay safe online.
One of the reasons scams are so dangerous, is because they appear so real. Scammers are experts at mimicking real situations that would usually urge you to act. This could be asking you to pay a bill, donate to a charity, or visit a link which has a nasty virus attached to it. Some of the most common scams that are circulating around currently are:
- Computer hacking
- Being contacted to say you have an overdue bill and it needs to be paid immediately
- Dating scams
- Fake lottery wins
- Money offering in return for personal information
Most of the time, these scams will involve somebody contacting you and impersonating someone else. This is where problems arise. When you contact a company yourself, you know who you are talking to. But when they reach out to you, it can be very difficult to determine if it is the real company or not. Some of these scammers are very good at what they do, and they mimic every minor detail so that you believe it is the real company. However, there are a number of things that you can do that can limit you or your loved ones vulnerability to scams.
This is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself. If a company you know contacts you, for example your electricity provider, and asks for something unusual, your first step should be to fact check it. Contact your provider and let them know what you received. These companies are well aware that scams are very common and are more than happy to confirm the information. They will be able to let you know if it was actually them contacting you, or if it is a scam.
Added security on your social media and online accounts is a great added layer of defence against hacking. Sometimes scammers try to get into your personal accounts to gain access to your details, and then your money. Most, if not all major social media accounts and online account allow you to enable two-factor authentication. This works by having you verify your identity through a second method once you enter your traditional username and password. The most common form of this is through a text message. The platform will send you a unique code to your mobile number, and you simply enter this to prove that it is indeed you logging in. If you don’t already have two-factor authentication in place where possible, we highly recommend you do. Most platforms offer a step-by-step process of this, or you can reach out to a loved one for assistance if you are still not sure how to activate it.
Be wary of links and pop ups
One of the more common ways that people are scammed is through clicking on a link or attachment that puts a virus on your computer. Scammers then use this to access your personal information and accounts. The best way to avoid this is to simply not click on any suspicious links or pop ups. This can be hard to determine sometimes, as not all scam links immediately seem suspicious. The best advice is to avoid them all together. If you’ve been offered money or a lotto win, and you know you have entered something of this sort, contact the company directly to confirm. Pop-ups on websites can also sometimes leads to scams, so if something catches your eye, it’s best to search what you saw directly and try and verify the information.
For more information about online scams and what you can do to protect yourself, have a look the ScamWatch site hosted by the Australian Government. If you haven’t already, start implementing security measures such as two-factor authentication in your day-to-day life, and start fact checking any suspicious emails or phone calls. If you’re unsure, contact a friend or family member and have them look into the information for you. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!