Online scams to avoid this Christmas
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 is a spike in romance scams; more than we’ve seen in previous years,” she said.
Scams were also tricking even savvy internet users this Christmas, Ms Connick warned, “because of the time pressures at this time of year, financial pressures” and “quick decisions”. She recommended Australians used two-factor authentication where possible and report suspicious activity.
Mr Pal said consumers should also ensure the software on their devices was up to date and only shop on secure websites.