The scams of Christ­mas

NT News - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER DUD­LEY-NI­CHOL­SON

FROM gift card frauds and tax scams to fake hol­i­day ads and ap­peals for char­i­ties that don’t ex­ist, Aus­tralians are un­wrap­ping a host of new scams this Christ­mas and they’re harder to pick than ever.

Huge num­ber of bar­gain­hunt­ing, lonely, and time-poor Aussies are al­ready be­ing caught out in these on­line tricks, se­cu­rity ex­perts warn, but the end-of-year rush will see a spike in at­tempts to steal your money.

Aus­tralians have al­ready lost more than $101 mil­lion to scams this year, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion ScamWatch pro­gram, break­ing records even though the year was not yet over.

Unisys Asia Pa­cific se­cu­rity ser­vices di­rec­tor Ash­win Pal said the hol­i­day sea­son would ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem, as scam­mers sought to take ad­van­tage of stressed and vul­ner­a­ble Christ­mas shop­pers.

“Why do li­ons hunt for prey at the wa­ter­ing hole? It’s where the prey hangs out,” he said.

“Christ­mas is ba­si­cally the wa­ter­ing hole: ev­ery­one is on­line, ev­ery­one is buy­ing stuff, and if you take time to lure peo­ple you will catch them.

“The un­for­tu­nate thing is scam­mers try this be­cause it ac­tu­ally works.” Mr Pal said Aus­tralians should ex­pect to see in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated scams this year as crim­i­nals in­vested more re­sources in du­pli­cat­ing le­git­i­mate email mes­sages, on­line stores and web ads, mak­ing them look al­most in­dis­cernible from the real things.

For­mer Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment cy­ber se­cu­rity strat­egy lead Lyn­wen Con­nick, who now heads ANZ’s in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity di­vi­sion, said the in­sti­tu­tion was al­ready see­ing more scams in­volv­ing dig­i­tal gift vouch­ers, on­line shop­ping, fake char­i­ties, and fraud­u­lent hol­i­day deals.

In what she called an “up­set­ting” trend, scam­mers were also tar­get­ing lonely hearts this Christ­mas.

“We’re see­ing this year a spike in ro­mance scams; more than we’ve seen in pre­vi­ous years,” she said.

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