Here’s How to Be Yourself and NOT let a Scammer Be You!

If you hadn’t truly embraced the incredible benefits of managing your life online, then I bet 2020 has changed things for you. With social distancing still a big consideration in day to day life, more Aussies than ever are managing their lives online so they can stay home and stay well. But, unfortunately, there is a downside – online scams. The expanded online playground of 2020 means cybercrims are upping the ante and investing even more energy doing what they do so well – scamming everyday Aussies out of their hard-earned cash.

This week is Scams Awareness Week in Australia – a good opportunity to be reminded of how our growing use of technology can give scammers more opportunities to trick us into giving away our valuable personal information. In 2019, a whopping $630 million dollars was lost by Australians in scams.

Scammers are Pivoting Too!

We’ve all heard it. 2020 is about pivoting – being flexible and seeking out new opportunities. Well, clearly, we aren’t the only ones heeding the advice with scammers changing things up to capitalise on the chaotic nature of 2020. In fact Scamwatch has seen a 55 per cent increase in reports involving loss of personal information this year compared with the same period in 2019, totalling more than 24, 000 reports and over $22 million in losses.

Many experts are warning that scammers are renowned for ‘following the money’ so are currently expending a lot of energy targeting Aussies’ superannuation and government relief payments. Using email, text or phone, a scammer will often pretend to be from a Government agency eg MyGov or the Health Department and will insist that they require personal information in order to help the ‘victim’ access government payments, or access their super fund.

They are after driver’s license details, Medicare numbers – whatever they can get their hands on that will give them 100 points of identification which is enough for them to assume the identity of the victim and effectively do anything in their name. They could apply for a credit card, access superannuation accounts, or even tap into a victim’s government payments!

What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves?

There are steps we can all take to minimise the risk of getting caught up in a scam and, to be honest, most of them are remarkably simple. Here are my top tips:

  1. Think Critically

If there was ever a time to tap into your inner Sherlock Holmes, it’s now! If you receive a call, text, or email from someone out of the blue who claims to be from a government agency then tread VERY carefully! Do not feel pressured to share any information with anyone who has contacted you – regardless of what they say. Take a moment and ask yourself why they would be contacting you. If they are calling you – and you still aren’t sure – ask for their number so you can call them back later.

Remember – reputable organisations will rarely – if ever – call you and ask for personal information. And if you still aren’t sure – ask a family member of trusted friend for their advice. But remain sceptical at all times!

  1. Passwords, Passwords, Passwords

Yes, I know I sound like a broken record – but having an easily guessable password that you use on all your devices and accounts is no different to playing Russian Roulette – you won’t come out on top! Unfortunately, data breaches are a reality of our digital life. If a scammer gets their hands on your email and password combo through a data breach – and you have used that same combo on all your accounts – then you are effectively giving them access to your online life.

So, you need a separate complex password for each of your online accounts. It needs to be at least 8 characters and a combination of numbers, letter (lower and uppercase) and symbols. I love using a nonsensical sentence but a password manager that does all the thinking – and remembering – is the absolute best way of managing your passwords. Check out McAfee Total Protection, which includes a Password Manager.

  1. Keep Your Personal Information Tight

The best way to keep your personal information safe is by keeping it to yourself! Limit the amount of personal information you share – particularly on social media. Oversharing online makes it even easier for a scammer to steal your identity. And please avoid linking up your credit or debit cards to your online accounts unless absolutely necessary. Yes, it’s so convenient and a great way of making spontaneous purchases but it is a very risky business.

2020 has certainly been a tough year for us all. Many of us are struggling – financially and psychologically as we come to grips with our changing world. So, please – take a little time to tighten up your online life and remember if something seems too good to be true then it probably is!

Stay safe everyone!

Alex x


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