Don't be scammed: Safeguard your identity

25 Nov 2016

By Shadforth Financial Group

As more and more of us head online to manage our financial affairs, it’s increasingly important to take precautions to protect your online identity.

In 2016 alone, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports that Australians lost over $93 million1 to various scams, including phishing, false billing, identity theft and unexpected prize and lottery scams. Scam investment schemes alone have taken in over $16 million whilst dating and romance scams have defrauded people over $17 million.

Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, using all forms of communication — telephone, letter, email, text message and social networking — and hacking computers. Here are some common scams to be aware of.

Advance fee fraud

This is the most common scam where the scammer requests that you pay a fee upfront or provide personal information in return for goods, services, money or rewards which are never supplied.

For example you receive a notification that you’ve won an unexpected monetary prize in a lottery, sweepstake or competition and that you must pay an administration fee or taxes before the money is released. Unfortunately once you have paid you will never receive the promised prize.

Another well-known scam is when you are offered a financial reward in exchange for helping transfer money overseas. When you provide the scammer with your bank account details they will rapidly empty it.

Remember, if you never entered the competition or lottery in the first place you cannot win money. Any legitimate lottery or competition doesn’t require you to pay upfront for your prize and tickets in overseas lotteries can generally only be purchased in the country which it is being run.

Computer hacking

Phishing emails — phishing is an attempt by criminals to trick you into supplying your sensitive personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers and credit card details. Usually the email appears to come from a well-known company such as one of the big four banks, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) or Australia Post. The email will look quite credible because they may well have taken the imagery used from the legitimate company. Always be suspicious and keep in mind, that most companies never ask for this type of private information in this manner.

Some of the warning signs are that the email or text message isn’t addressed to your proper name or may contain typing and/or grammatical errors.

Social networking scams — through a phishing email, the scammers will ask you to enter your account details into a copy of the login page of the
social networking site (eg Facebook). Once they have your login details, they will take control of your profile and pretend to be you to solicit money or other personal details from your social network.

Golden opportunity scams

These types of scams target those who are looking for a fast way to make money. You’ll either receive a phone call or an email from the scammer offering you an investment opportunity that is ‘not to be missed’, ‘high return’ or ‘guaranteed’ investment in shares, property, options or foreign currency. While it sounds like a great opportunity, once you send the money, you will never receive the promised returns.

To protect yourself from these types of investment scams you can do some research to validate any offers. Use ASIC’s Australian Financial Services licensee register to check if the company has an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL). And, most importantly, always check with your financial adviser before handing over your hard earned cash. Remember, if it sounds too good to true, it probably is!

Tips to protect yourself

>> Question the offer — don’t respond to suspicious and threatening communications – press delete, throw it out or just hang up. And if you are unsure do some research or seek advice.

>> Computer security — keep your computer secure using up- to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Also ensure that you buy software from a reputable software provider. Remember that your smartphone and tablet devices are computers too.

>> Passwords — don’t share your passwords or PINs with anyone and do not write them down or store them where they can be found. When creating a password don’t use obvious words and numbers like your name, birthday, or sequential numbers. Try to ensure it features letters (upper and lower case where possible), numbers and symbols.

>> Suspicious or unsolicited emails — do not click on any links or open attachments from emails claiming to be from your bank or another trusted organisation, asking you to update or verify your details — just delete the email.

>> Check your statements regularly — whether you receive these via mail or online, regularly check your bank, credit card, loan and superannuation statements to ensure that there is no suspicious or irregular activity occurring. In the event there is, contact the appropriate provider quickly to reduce any financial loss.

>> Be alert — scammers are increasingly using all forms of communication, not just email. You can also be contacted via telephone, letter, social media or a text message.

How are we ensuring your details are safe?

As part of a larger organisation, our IT team ensures that at Shadforth, we have a secure IT environment. We also receive regular training about how to deal with suspicious emails and what processes to follow to qualify these requests. If we are unsure of an email we have received from you, we will contact you to make sure the request is legitimate.

Find out more

For more information about scams, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch website www.scamwatch.gov.au.

For information specifically on investment scams, visit the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) MoneySmart website https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/scams

If you are unsure if an email or phone call you’ve received is legitimate, please contact your Private Client Adviser.

1 Scamwatch (www.scamwatch.gov.au)

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