Scams Are Spiking During COVID — Here’s 5 Tips to Protect Yourself

Scams Are Spiking During COVID — Here’s 5 Tips to Protect Yourself

Among all the chaos 2020 has delivered, new figures from the ACCC’s Scamwatch show there’s been a sharp rise in reported scams during the coronavirus crisis. While it’s concerning, there are simple ways to help protect yourself from getting deceived online.

New figures released as a part of this year’s National Scams Awareness Week show there has been a 55 per cent increase in reports of stolen personal information compared to this time in 2019.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch has said there have been 24,000 reports so far in 2020 and Australians have reported to lose more than $22 million on top of stolen personal information.

Interestingly, the age group most affected was not one you’d expect. Aussies between 25 and 34 fell for the scams more than anyone else.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people working and socialising online, we have unfortunately seen a sharp increase in scammers seeking personal information,” Delia Rickard, ACCC’s Deputy Chair, said in a media release.

“Personal information, such as bank and superannuation details or passwords, are extremely valuable and scammers will try to steal them for their own financial gain. Our increased use of technology has created more opportunities for them to do so.

“Scammers will also try and steal a range of other documents, or the numbers associated with them, including passports, driver licences, credit cards, tax statements, utility bills or Medicare cards, so that they can impersonate you.”

Among the most popular forms was phishing — when scammers pose as the government or a business and encourage victims to willingly hand over personal data. Phishing scams were up 44 per cent compared to the same time in 2019 with a number of scammers pretending to be the ATO, myGov, Telstra or the NBN.

The issue comes when a phishing scam successfully gets a person’s personal information and then uses it to access their financial accounts or to impersonate them for their benefit.

While scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, there a number of simple and easy-to-remember tips in order to decrease your chances of becoming a target.

How can I protect myself from scammers online?

According to Scamwatch, here are five simple tips to help protect your personal information from being stolen.

  • Don’t be pressured into giving away any personal information by someone who has contacted you, no matter who they say they are.
  • Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or messages, even if it appears to have come from a legitimate source.
  • Use strong passwords for your accounts and internet network, and never share them with others.
  • Install anti-virus software on your devices and keep it up to date.
  • Limit what personal information you share about yourself online, including on social media.

As always, be critical of any unexpected emails claiming you owe money and avoid clicking on links before verifying it is indeed the government or a service you’re signed up for.

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