When there’s something ‘phishy’ about that email…

With the increased reliance on technology in so many aspects of our lives, we have unfortunately seen a rise in the dark side with criminals targeting innocent people to try and illicit personal information for their own benefit through some type of scam.

Whilst scammers target people of all ages and backgrounds, some scams are more likely to be targeted towards seniors due to the perception that people in this age group are less tech savvy (we beg to differ!), and have more accumulated wealth.

In this blog post we will look at common signs to look out for, and easy steps we can implement to keep us safe online.

Often referred to as “Phishing”, modern day scammers may contact you by phone, social media, text or email professing to be from a legitimate business. Their level of “professionalism” often makes it very difficult to detect the validity. Some common ways of doing this are under the guise of ‘verifying customer records’, completing a customer survey for the chance to win a prize, or alerting you to ‘unauthorised or suspicious activity on your account’. In each of these situations, the cover story will be looking for you to confirm or provide personal information such as credit card details, PIN codes or bank and address details, allowing scammers to carry out fraudulent activities.

Phishing messages often copy the format used by the legitimate organisation they are pretending to represent by using their branding and logo, and disguise themselves with a very similar email address or website. For example, if the legitimate website is ‘www.thisbank.com.au’, the scammer may use an address such as ‘www.thissbank.com.au’ making it very tricky to notice!

Warning signs:

  • An email (or other communication) claiming to be from a bank, telco provider or other common business asking you to update / verify your details.
  • The email or text message is from a name similar to a legitimate business name, or is addressed to an unusual version of your name / email address. This is often done because they will send their communications to dozens of variations hoping that one of those contact names or email addresses will be correct.
  • A celebrity “endorsement” which is often used without the celebrity’s knowledge and is perceived to provide comfort or a sense of security by using a well known name or face to supposedly spruik an investment or product.

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Do not click on any links or open any attachment from emails claiming to be from your bank or other trusted organisation if it’s asking you to update / verify any of your information, or if it’s different to the usual communication you would expect to receive from this company.
  • If you notice any suspicious activity, you are often not the first to do so, so a simple search for the business name and the word “scam” may disclose a reference to this particular scam and a way to report it.
  • Never provide your personal, credit card or online account details to anyone that has initiated communication with you. Rather ask for their name and department details, and call the publicised phone number of this organisation to independently check the legitimacy of this request.
  • Pay attention to the email address, phone number or website and look for spelling mistakes or other subtle nuances that might signify dubious activity.
  • Always do your research before investing your money with a new company. If something seems too good to be true… it just might be!

What can you do if you suspect you have been scammed?

If you think you may have given out personal information that you shouldn’t have, alert that organisation via their official, published contact information. The next step should be to report the scam to the ACCC. If you’re concerned that you have been scammed, you should visit Scamwatch.gov.au to report the scam and get assistance.

Should I be worried?

The intention of this blog post is definitely not to alarm or frighten you! There are many wonderful ways in which technology has enhanced our lives, and the risks really are quite minimal. The best thing to do is to be informed of risks and educated for any warning signs. Afterall, knowledge is power, and we hope this has helped to teach you a few tips about staying safe online!