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Monday, 18 May 2015 13:55

Dating, data, investment scams cost us $80 million-plus Featured

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net/images Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net/images

More than $80 million was lost to scams in Australia last year, with scammers stealing not only money but data. Computer prediction software scams targeting investors were also prevalent.

The widespread scamming saw 91,637 Australians losing money and data to the tune of $81,832,793 during 2014, with the stolen data used by scammers to commit identity theft or to sell the information to other scammers.

The extent and cost of scamming is highlighted in a new Targeting Scams Report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to coincide with Fraud Week.

Unsurprisingly, online dating scams remained the number one scam for financial losses with almost $28 million reported lost - despite making up only 3% of all scam reports.

The ACCC report reveals that 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% of reported losses and over $21 million dollars 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.

Rickards warns that, 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,” Rickard cautions.

With scamming becoming even more widespread, particularly stealing of personal data and identity information, the ACCC has issued these SCAMwatch tips:

1.    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

2.    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

3.    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

4.    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

5.    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

6.    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.

A short animated video - ‘Get smarter with your data’ – is available at the ACCC’s SCAMwatch site – click here to view the video.    

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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