They say that crime never sleeps, and neither does the internet especially when it comes to money-related scams, including identity theft, fake financial schemes, and more.
The good news is that improved research and information-sharing between international agencies is already helping us catch up. Now that 2018 is well underway, we’re starting to see a lot of really interesting data come in from regulators and researchers on 2017’s worst financial scams and identity theft crimes. Their reports are full of insights and tips that could save you from falling victim to a scam in the near future.
Here are two of the most common and damaging scams
According to the ACCC’s ScamWatch, remote access scams are already one of the most common and costly crimes of their type in 2018.i But what exactly are they?
Remote access scams are when someone phones you pretending to be from your phone company, internet service provider, or a software provider. They might claim that your computer is “sending out error messages”, or that they’ve “detected a hack”. Then – and this is where the ‘remote access’ part comes in – they say they need remote access to your computer to fix the issue for you. This may involve you downloading software or clicking a link they send you.
The main thing to remember about these calls? Major telcos and software companies are well aware of remote access scams. Which is why they’ll almost never call you to report something. And they’d certainly never ask for personal details, let alone payment. If you’re concerned and think a notification call may be genuine, hang up and call back the main 13 number your phone or internet provider has given you. Once you’ve completed the usual security checks, a customer service agent will generally be able to tell you if the company has genuinely tried to contact you.
Card not present
According to the Australian Payments Network Ltd (previously APCA), ‘card not present’ (CNP) fraud is the most common type of online credit card fraud.ii CNP fraud is when card details – not the card itself – are used to make a payment. All a scammer needs is a picture of your card, or even just a few details written down – name, number, expiry date, and security code. They then use this to make a purchase instantly or buy something they can sell for quick cash. Scammers get card details in a variety of ways; some from covert surveillance, some from physical theft, some from mail tampering.
The simplest way to avoid becoming a victim of CNP fraud is not having your important card details physically written down anywhere. Don’t even text or email your card details to your spouse or kids; you never know who could be intercepting messages. Consumer advocates CHOICE also recommends checking your account regularly for suspicious activity.iii Many banks and card providers have systems set up to detect unusual activity, such as random purchases on the other side of the world minutes after purchases at home. But they don’t always pick up scammers’ activity if it’s local. For example, someone who’s stolen your card details could be making small purchases around your city that don’t look odd to a bank’s security algorithm. What’s more, multiple small transactions may be less likely to trigger a security response. Logging in to your banking app and checking the last few transactions every day or two could help prevent a string of frauds depleting your account.
Remember, if you’re concerned about fraudulent activity or access to your account, call your bank immediately. You can report scams to the police, to ScamWatch, or to your state/territory’s consumer affairs authority.