Sunday Territorian

How to keep your digital data safe from hackers

- Sally Tindall Sally Tindall is research director at

Two weeks ago, my phone rang as I was running to the school gate. I was focused on avoiding yet another ‘where have you been?’ look from the teachers, but I answered anyway. It was CBA.

“Ms Tindall?” The customer service representa­tive barked over the noise coming from a busy call centre. “There’s a problem with your account.”

I stopped. My heart would have stopped too, but I don’t have a CBA account.

For this scammer, it was a swing and a miss, but that day he probably hit a home run somewhere else.

And next time, when I’m not concentrat­ing, they could hit me in the eyes.

When Silicon Valley Bank collapsed just over a month ago there was a lot of talk about contagion.

Could a handful of bank collapses in the US spread across the Pacific? Is our money safe in the bank anymore?

The short answer is: yes, because a) bank collapses in Australia are highly irregular and b) the federal government guarantees any money you might have in the bank up to $250,000, provided it’s what’s known as an ‘authorised deposit-taking institutio­n’.

However, if you give out your personal details or a onetime password to a scammer, you might find you’re on your own.

It’s a scary prospect, but there are ways to protect your finances. A few golden rules and a couple of easy to implement steps will help you identify red flags and potentiall­y avoid risky situations.

1. Push notificati­ons are your friend. Make sure every time more than $20 comes out of your account, you know about it immediatel­y.

2. Reassess your daily spending limits. If a scammer gets in, limit the damage they can do before you notice.

3. Set up a PayID, and where possible, transfer money to others using this format. Using a PayID, you can check it against the person’s phone number or email address, something you can’t do using an old school BSB and account number.

4. Don’t drink and click… for so many reasons. On a Friday night you might skip over the fine print on a returns policy, but you also might not notice if you’re handing over your credit card details to a dodgy online shop.

5. Use strong passwords that are hard to guess. In this day and age, one weak password across all of your important logins can be worse than leaving your keys hanging in the front door.

6. Avoid public Wi-Fi – again, you may as well leave the keys in your car while you’re at the shops.

7. Verify unsolicite­d calls and texts. If your bank, energy provider, even your eToll company contacts you out of the blue, hang up and call them back on the number provided on their website.

8. Keep track of your credit score – something you can do for free. If your score goes down for no reason, get a copy of your credit file and see if there’s any irregular activity on it.

If you do get caught out by a scam, call your bank straight away and report the incident to ScamWatch, even if you didn’t lose any money.

Getting tricked by a scammer can make you feel entirely stupid – not something people are naturally inclined to shout from the rooftops.

But we all make mistakes (goodness knows I’ve made plenty) and the more we talk about them, the less likely others will be to fall into the same trap.

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