Monday, 01 December 2014 09:45

ACCC: Australia’s Con-Catching Commission issues Christmas warning Featured

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Scammers are online this Christmas trying to con you with emails suggesting there’s a missed parcel you need to pay a re-delivery fee for, but if you fall for it your present will be heartache, a lighter wallet, the risk of identity theft or the risk of ransomware.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the ACCC, could easily temporarily rename itself the Australian Christmas Con-Catching Commission with its latest warning.

It turns out that scammers - those nefarious net no-goods whose mission in life is to partake of your cash in a crummy manner - are trying to cash-in on the crazy Christmas mail rush by posing as postal and/or courier services.

ACCC Deputy Chair and one of its chief con-artist catchers, Delia Rickard, said: “Australians send and receive millions of parcels at Christmas time. If you are expecting delivery of a gift for family or friends, or might receive a present, it’s important to beware of these scams arriving in your inbox.

“These scams are common in the festive season and are sadly on the rise. This year, over $100,000 has been lost to parcel delivery scams with more than 400 complaints to the ACCC.”

As with recent email traps that deliver crypto-malware/ransomeware that encrypts your hard drive and ruins your day, the ACCC says these scam bait emails ‘appear to be from a legitimate parcel delivery service such as Australia Post or FedEx and may be personalised with your name and address.’

Continuing the con, we learn that ‘consumers are told that they missed a parcel delivery at home and information for retrieving the package is attached to the email.’

But this is in addition to the likelihood of ransomware.

While the ACCC warns that you may well receive a .exe attachment file which actually does deliver the much-feared ransomware that not only restricts access to your computer and its files, while demanding a ransom be paid (sometimes in bitcoins) so the ransomware is removed and access is restored - with no guarantee you’ll get your files back or that the ransomware won’t reactivated in the future, there’s a variation on this scam.

The variation is that you will ‘be offered re-delivery at a convenient time if you pay a fee of $10 to $30 via wire transfer or credit card. If you transfer money, you’ll never see it again. If you give your personal financial details, you’re accounts have been compromised.’

If you are really unlucky, you’ll get both emails in one, or one after the other - a missed delivery notification AND ransomware, and while the ACCC doesn’t mention the possibility of this devilish double whammy, in a universe of infinite possibility, it’ll surely happen to someone, somewhere.

The ACCC’s Rickard continues her warning, stating: “If you are suspicious about a ‘missed’ parcel delivery, call the company directly to verify that the correspondence is genuine and do not click on the links or attachments. Independently source the contact details through an internet search or phone book – do not rely on numbers provided.

“Keep in mind that you, or the purchaser, are likely to have already paid any costs associated with delivery and there should not be further charges. If you think you have provided your banking or credit card details to a scammer contact your bank or financial institution immediately.”

So - please be careful online. Trust no-one, trust no attachment, if you get a message about a missed parcel from Fedex or Australia Post, pick up the phone and ring the company from the phone number on its public website.

And make backups! Onsite and offsite!

For if you don’t, your Christmas cheer might turn to Christmas tear, leaving you with the forlorn hope you could tear the scammers a new one.

So, be smart, and you too can be a member of Australia’s clever computing consumers, the other ACCC we should also want to be aligned with!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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