Fraud­sters run amok on in­ter­net

Townsville Bulletin - - The Goss - by Nhada Larkin

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

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