How to Prevent Being Scammed Online, According to Security Experts


Over the last 20 years, our lives have moved online and as a result, online attacks and scams have become prolific. In light of this, NortonLifeLock has released a new podcast called Criminal Domain which looks at how Australians have been impacted by cybercrime.

The multi-episode series is hosted by seasoned Crime Reporter Claire Aird and renowned futurist Mark Pesce and uncovers the online threats affecting Australians every day.

“Because our lives have moved online, it means that the way people can attack us has now got a digital edge, it’s often quite invisible,” Pesce said in an interview with TheLatch—.

“And we aren’t particularly well-schooled in this because it’s pretty much new to everyone.”

Pesce was drawn to the project because of people’s first-hand experiences with cybercrime.

“It was really interesting for me to be able to talk to people and listen to the stories of the people who had survived these things and what they had learned,” he said.

Their first episode centres around former Love Island winner and star Tayla Demir, who details how she was stranded in Lebanon after an identity theft hacker drained her bank account and took over her digital life.

“We are not always aware when we’re giving out our credentials online,” Pesce said. “Like the bits and pieces that constitute 100 points of identity that you might need or other bits of information about ourselves, such as credit card numbers.”

Although Damir “comes across as quite innocent in the first episode”, Pesce says it’s not about being “gullible”.

“We may not necessarily always know when we’re doing something we shouldn’t be. There’s no one looking over our shoulder.”

When it comes to the “dark web”, there’s a whole other set of websites that were set up by security researchers to provide a way for people who live in countries that have restricted internet.

“That maybe Iran or China or North Korea and Russia,” Pesce said. “It works really well for that, although, one side effect of this and you can argue about whether it was intentional or not, is it also makes it really easy to hide websites that are only accessible if you use the software and because of the nature of the software, those websites aren’t traceable to a particular machine, in a particular location, with a particular person running it.”

The launch of Criminal Domain coincides with the announcement that Dark Web Monitoring is now available locally with Australia becoming one of the first countries in the world with access to the industry-leading technology.

“This is one of the good reasons for having Norton as a sponsor because they’ve tried to create software that helps you to avoid doing stupid things. There’s always going to be an evolution and a cat and mouse.”

For the most part, a hacker could be the “cat” while an innocent internet user, the “mouse”.


NortonLifeLock Senior Director, Mark Gorrie, says that hackers are so successful because of their ability to evolve.

“Hackers are constantly evolving their methods to mislead and trick people into assuming they are trusted sources,” he said in an interview with TheLatch—.

“The number of ways cybercriminals are able to contact you has never been greater, which as a result has meant an increase in the risk of attacks on Australia.”

According to Gorrie, since the COVID-19 pandemic has begun, “the frequency and complexity of attacks have increased with more of us having to do more online.” In fact, one in six Australians has fallen victim to cyber-crime during the lockdown.

“The increase could be down to any number of factors, however, a driving factor is likely that a number of older people are shopping online for the first time and as they are unfamiliar with the process, this leaves them vulnerable to an attack,” he said.

“We also found as well that young Australians have a mentality that they are ‘too smart to be scammed’. What’s not expected is to come across scams on social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok.”

NortonLifeLock has seen an increase in phishing scams. For example “phishers” take on the persona of someone trustworthy — a friend, neighbour or colleague — in an attempt to get you to hand over information or click a malicious link via email, social media or other messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Less commonly, they have also seen an increase in “fake puppy scams” and superannuation scams.

“Those lonely during COVID lockdown have been seeking a new puppy for companionship have been scammed by fake puppy listings and never receive their pet after payment has been made,” he said.

“With early access to superannuation being made available for those suffering from financial hardship, there have been scam activity with offers to assist people to access their funds. The scammers are attempting to harvest superannuation credentials and personal ID information to gain access to available funds.”

So, how can we prevent being scammed or best protect ourselves online?

“It’s important to practice good digital hygiene,” Gorrie explained. “There are several simple steps that we can take to ensure that we are better at protecting ourselves online.”

Firstly, it’s important to make sure you’re using security software on all of your devices, including your mobile phone. According to Gorrie, the mobile is the least protected device, however, it also the device we use the most.

“It’s also smart to set up two-step authentication wherever possible on your accounts,” he said. So, if a scammer does get your username and password, multifactor authentication makes it harder to log in to your accounts.”

Finally, Gorrie suggests keeping your VPN [Virtual Private Network] turned on.

“Unencrypted connections such as public WiFi available in shopping centres or airports give cybercriminals a chance to snoop on data being sent and received by your device. VPN helps ensure the data transferred to and from your account is encrypted and unreadable.”

Lastly, never click on links and attachments in emails from unknown or unexpected sources, this is the main way people are compromised in phishing scams.

Criminal Domain is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, as well as at criminaldomain.com.au.

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