Fraudsters run amok on internet
MORE people than ever are falling victim to rorts.
Scammers ripped off Australians by $ 63 million last year, with the number of rorts reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission doubling.
Unsolicited phone calls that convinced unwitting consumers to divulge personal details or hard-earned dollars grew sevenfold to more than 14,000 reports in 2010, compared with just 2000 in the previous year.
The figures are contained in a report to be released today, the start of annual Consumer Fraud Week.
About 16 per cent of the reported rorts involved losses of ‘‘ anywhere between a few dollars to several million’’, says ACCC deputy chairman and head of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce Peter Kell.
The total losses reported to the ACCC by the victims of rorters remained steady but, Kell says, there is no doubt more people are being hit by these criminals.
He says the availability of cheap international phone calls through the use of voice-over-internet-protocol ( VoIP) was a factor in the disturbing growth in phone scams in 2010.
One of the most common is a person claiming there is a problem with the call recipient’s computer.
The scammer typically asks for money to buy antivirus software, or requests remote access to the computer.
‘‘ It has been interesting to track this scam over the past 12 months. It has been almost like following these unscrupulous operators as they open up a different regional telephone book around Australia each week,’’ Kell says.
After the natural disasters in Queens- land, the ACCC put out several warnings for consumers to watch out for charity rorts and fake websites asking for donations.
Instead, the scammers circulated fake government emails to some people affected by the floods and cyclones, offering assistance in return for personal financial details or a processing fee.
‘‘ Government departments will never contact you in that manner and if you have any doubt whatsoever you should contact the department directly,’’ Kell says. ‘‘ What we are finding is online technology has enabled scammers to move into areas many people would not even consider as posing a risk for scams.’’
This includes things such as genealogy websites, where consumers unwit t i ngl y hand o v e r p r i v a t e d e t - ails, or are convinced to pay for information they could otherwise obtain for free.
Kell says consumers should always be careful about the amount of personal data they provide online; be very wary of offers made out of the blue; and not agree to any offers or deals straight away.
‘‘ Never send money or give credit card details to anyone you don’t know or trust,’’ Kell says.
‘‘ And it is vital not to click on any links in a spam email – and don’t call a telephone number that you see in a spam email or SMS.’’
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission warns that rorts which work usually look realistic and are presented well, with business-like websites and names that sound reputable. They will offer high returns, sometimes more than 300 per cent a year, and will often urge secrecy to make you feel as though you have an edge over others.
WARNING: Online technology has enabled rorters to move into new and unexpected areas