With Online Scams on the Rise, Here’s How to Avoid Being Ripped Off

how to avoid online scams

It’s no longer Nigerian princes trying to offload their vast fortunes to you that you need to watch out for; the current crop of online scams are effective and highly sophisticated.

You might think, after getting a few of those dodgy phonecalls and texts that have been going around, that falling for an online scam is something you’ll never do but the reality is that Australians lose millions of dollars to scams each year and 2021 is likely to be one of the worst years on record for this kind of theft.

Typically, Australian seniors are the most at risk from scammers, with NBN-related ‘impersonation’ scams being the most prevalent amongst this age group. According to data from Scamwatch, Australians lost more than $1.4 million to NBN-related scams between January and September this year — a huge jump from 2020, when total annual losses to NBN-related scams reached just over $1 million.

Impersonation scams are when someone pretends to represent a company like NBN who the individual has a relationship with. If the scammer can convince the person they’re legitimate, they can often get access to sensitive information like bank details and drain their funds.

People from Victoria reported the highest losses ($479,779) to NBN impersonation scams so far this year, followed by people in NSW ($473,213) and Queensland ($306,212).

Impersonation scams often incorporate ‘remote access’ scams, one of the largest growing scam types in Australia. In a remote access scam, a scammer will call and request access to a victim’s devices in order to transfer money, often without their knowledge.

Recent reports of NBN-related remote access scams show many scammers are using a particular ‘hacking’ scenario to take advantage of their victims. In this scenario, a scammer will contact their victim claiming that their computer has been accessed by hackers and ask for remote access to the computer in order to stop the hackers.

Darren Kane, Chief Security Officer at NBN, has said that scams impact Australians of all ages, but older Australians can often be scammers’ primary targets. These scammers are smart — they know what to say to sound convincing over the phone, and they can create a sense of urgency or confusion to put their victim off-kilter.

“When cornered by a scammer, many older Australians may not know how to shut down the conversation or avoid being tricked into making a mistake,” says Kane.

Nan Bosler, spokesperson for the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association, said that older people can easily protect themselves online with the proper training.

“People often underestimate older Australians, especially when it comes to technology. But given the right skills and training there’s no reason older Australians can’t arm ourselves against scammers — and maybe even help teach younger Aussies a thing or two.”

This week is Scam Awareness Week and NBN has launched a new ‘ScamFit’ programme in an effort to stop people over the age of 65 from being ripped off online. If there’s someone in your life who your worried is a little too trusting on the internet, here’s what you should do to protect them.

How to Prevent Online Scams

There’s no one way to protect yourself online, but having good anti-virus software, a reasonable understanding of how scams work, and a healthy dose of caution goes a long way.

NBN recommends visiting their scam advice hub for information on how to identify and avoid potential scammers or for advice if you suspect you have been scammed.

NBN has said that they will never call and ask to access your computer or advise that you’re going to be disconnected. NBN is a wholesaler, which means it does not sell phone or internet services directly to the public. People need to contact their preferred phone and internet provider if they want to make the switch.

Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer or devices via the installation of programs, such as Team Viewer.

NBN does not make automated calls, such as robocalls, to advise of disconnections or existing copper phone line services. Do not engage with these calls.

Do not share your financial information (i.e. bank, credit card or gift card details) or personal details with an unsolicited caller or door knockers trying to seek payment for a service.

If in doubt, hang up and call your retail service provider on their official customer service centre number to check if the call is legitimate. Do not use contact details supplied by the caller.

NBN will be kicking off its ScamFit Programme with a joint online ‘Workout’ session hosted in partnership with the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association, the national peak body for seniors and technology. The Workout is open to all Australians and free registration is available at NBN’s Community events page.

NBN will also be running a series of online information events for businesses and other members of the community in support of Scams Awareness Week.

To find a ScamFit Workshop or local event, visit NBN’s Community events page.

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.