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Stay Smart Online

Keep your important personal information safe

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Being smart and keeping your personal information secure is critical in today's digital environment.

  1. Keep your personal details secure: Your postal mail and your online presence are the first place a scammer will look to piece together your details. Lock your mailbox, and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing out. Be careful sharing information about yourself online, including social media, blogs and other online forums.  
  2. Think twice about what you say and do in an online environment: Whilst there are times when your personal details are required for legitimate reasons, such as signing up to a new service or buying something, always check that the person or organisation is who they say they are. Stop and think before filling in surveys, entering competitions, clicking on links or attachments, or even ‘befriending’, ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ something.
  3. Keep your mobile devices and computers secure: These are a treasure trove of personal information for scammers. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a scammer – always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
  4. Choose your passwords carefully: Passwords are often the only barrier between scammers and your valuable information. Set and use strong passwords which are difficult to guess, and change them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  5. Beware of any request for your details or money: Scammers will try to trick you into handing over your data by using the names of well-known companies or government departments. If you think it’s a scam, DON’T RESPOND. Use the phone book or an online search to check the organisation’s contact details. NEVER use the contact details provided in the original request.
  6. Get a copy of your credit report: Your credit report contains information on your credit history. You can get a free copy of your report every year to check that no-one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts.  Find out how to get your free credit report on ASIC's MoneySmart website – www.moneysmart.gov.au 

How spam scammers use your personal information

If you open an email sent to you by an unknown sender you could be giving away your personal information. By just simply opening an email you can give a scammer details of:

  • Your IP address
  • The type of browser you are using
  • Your operating system

Scammers can then attach malware to your computer based on this information. This malware can collect lots of personal information such as:

  • Name and date of birth
  • Email addresses and telephone numbers
  • Your physical address
  • Bank account and credit card details
  • Social networking account, email and online passwords
  • Photographs you have taken
  • Tax information
  • Upcoming or current travel/holiday plans
  • Relatives names and contact details
  • Medical or health information
  • Any work related material written in an official capacity

Spam scammers want to access your information so they can specifically target you and make you believe they are legitimate. In reality, scammers will make the same offer to thousands of people and will use the internet and telemarketing activities to gather personal information to help them build a profile about YOU.

How phone scammers use your personal information

Phone scammers can be tricky and will try and convince you that they are legitimate to get your trust. They also want to alarm you into acting quickly. Remember to be vigilant when on the telephone, and don’t give away your personal information to anyone that you don’t know or trust.

One of the most prolific scams circulating in the telemarketing space is the PC Virus scam.  The caller claims that your computer has been infected with a virus which needs to be removed.  To fix the problem, the caller may charge you a fee and will ask you to download software from a website so they can gain remote access to your computer to run a scan to identify the virus and remove it.

In another phone scam, the caller advises:

  • that they are representing a government department or bank
  • you may be eligible for a rebate or subsidy or a sum of money from a lost back account
  • you need to provide identifying information (full name, date of birth, address etc) to determine whether the person is eligible for the rebate or subsidy.
  • you need to pay a fee to process the rebate; or
  • to expect to receive a follow up call to further discuss your eligibility for the rebate.

These scams have a two pronged approach. The first call is aimed at obtaining a few personal details about your circumstances and the second is to get you to give further information and pay a fee to commence processing the rebate or subsidy.

Phone scammers use the first call to gain your trust and to provide legitimacy to the second call in which you are more likely to provide the valuable personal data the scammers are after.

For more tips on staying safe online visit the website of the Australian Communications and Media Authority at www.acma.gov.au or www.scamwatch.gov.au

 

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