How COVID-19 helped scammers
When the nation raced to move our work, socialising and personal admin tasks all online, scammer saw this as an opportunity. They have been pretending to be government organisations such as MyGov, Home Affairs, ATO, Health Department etc.
They are contacting Australians by either phone, text, or email, convincing you to access a particular benefit. They want you to share a wide range of personal information with them, everything from super details, bank account details, drivers license or Medicare number. Basically, all the information they can use to impersonate you.
Who are they targeting?
With so many people off work, many people are using online systems for the first time. COVID has made everyone extremely vulnerable, leaving people to make irrational decisions that they would not usually make. This is where scammers, who are very skilled at emotional manipulation, are coming in.
Sometimes scammers target people at random, but they also compile lists of people that have fallen victim before. In 2020, Australians aged between 25 and 34 have been most likely to report their personal details being stolen.
How much have they taken so far?
Well, quite a lot.
According to the ACCC, $91 million has been lost to scams so far this year and $22 million of that was lost to identity theft. So far this year a staggering 24,000 people have reported their personal details being stolen. An example being one victim lost $62,000 after someone created a new account using their personal details.
How to Protect Yourself
If you receive a call from “government” and you are in doubt, many government departments alert people on their website about scams which they are already aware of. So if the “ATO” rings – check their website to see if what you have been told on the phone is in fact a scam that has already been reported to them.
Keep in mind also, legal firms are targeted by scammers. So if you have a legal matter (say you are buying/selling a house), if your “solicitor” asks for “settlement funds” by email, make sure you call them and check their account details.
And generally speaking, do not let anyone try to pressure you into providing your personal details without affording you the chance to check the authenticy of the caller/sender.