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Monday, 13 July 2015 11:35

Scammers hit Aussies for $45 million Featured

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Australians have already lost $45 million to scams this year despite repeated warnings about the dangers of sending money or personal details to strangers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which today launched its new Scamwatch website, has received 45,000 complaints over the seven months of the year and has warned that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard has urged the community not to send money or personal details. “Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it."

Rickard says the new Scamwatch website has all the latest news and tips to help consumers identify and avoid scams. “By following the advice on this site, you can help to protect yourself against scammers."

"For the first time, the ACCC has published data on common scams that are causing the most harm in Australia, which will be updated every month on Scamwatch. This tool will help you keep one step ahead of the scammers.

"Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. There's no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam and all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time," Rickard said.

Here's the ACCC's suggestions for keeping an eye out for scams:

•    Be alert to the fact that scams exist: When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

•    Know who you're dealing with: If you've only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them.

•    Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails – delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

•    Keep your personal details secure: Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

•    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 WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.

•    Choose your passwords carefully: Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. 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.

•    Beware of any requests for your details or money: Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

•    Be careful when shopping online: Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust.

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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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