What scammers don't want you to know

Scammers stole $85.6 million from Australians in a year - the equivalent of a Big Mac for every man, woman and child in the country. And that's just the money the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission knows about. Many scams go unreported so the real figure is likely to be much higher than that.

Scammers stole $85.6 million from Australians in a year - the equivalent of a Big Mac for every man, woman and child in the country. And that's just the money the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission knows about. Many scams go unreported so the real figure is likely to be much higher than that.

You’d think that as awareness of online scams grows, the amount people are being scammed would be diminishing. The truth is, that $85.6 million figure in 2011 was actually a 35% increase from 2010. Internet users are getting savvier, of course – few people still fall for multi-million dollar inheritance offers from Nigerian princes – but as the number of people transacting online increases, scammers are developing more elaborate, more malicious and more convincing ways of getting you to part with your money.

You’ve probably received a fake email claiming to be from a bank or other organisation needing your account details and other personal information. These emails (or SMS messages) are known as ‘phishing’ and are not only annoying, they can be very dangerous if not detected as a scam. While a shift towards telephone scamming made it the number one channel in 2011, online methods of scam delivery – including the internet and email – continue to be highly used and are the second most commonly reported.

Even if you think you’re savvy enough to avoid a phishing scam by not directly providing personal details to a scammer, you could still find your details have been compromised just by following a link. Scammers who use phishing tactics can embed links with malware, or malicious software, that can lay undetected on your computer, tracking everything that you do.

Scammers can come from anywhere, are generally located overseas, and can be linked to gangs. Their motivation is money – they want your money and they don’t care how sneaky and dishonest they have to be to get it. It is up to you to make safe decisions when providing personal details over the internet.

A spokesperson for the ACCC said Scammers who use phishing tactics are generally trying to get information like your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers, which they will then use to steal your money. “Phishing emails often look genuine and use what looks to be a genuine internet address – in fact, they often copy an institution’s logo and message format, which can be very easy to do.”

Shane Kamler, head of Fraud Management at Heritage Bank on how to spot an online scam

Shane's top tips for keeping safe
  • Do not open emails you think could be a scam.
  • Delete the email if you have identified it as a scam.
  • Do not follow any links or open any attachments if you have opened a suspect email.
  • Type the address directory into the browser or only use bookmarks/favourites you’ve previously saved to do online banking.
  • Have your computer cleaned by an IT professional if you think you may have opened a dangerous email.
  • Never provide personal or bank details to people you don’t know or trust.
  • Report the scam to the institution it is trying to impersonate.
  • Contact your bank by phone if you think the email or message is legitimate to check it is from them.

Useful links

To get the low-down on what scammers have been up to lately, we spoke to Shane Kamler, head of Heritage’s Fraud Management team who told us the example of Jack, a 37 year old father of two who fell victim to an online phishing scam which saw him lose $25,000 of savings from his online account.

“Jack followed a link provided in a scam bank email, where he handed over his personal and online bank details. A week later he was blocked from his account and his money gone. Although the bank was able to recall the transactions , the breach of privacy and security had put a lot of stress on Jack, his wife and children.”

Shane warns although Jack’s story has been made up for the purpose of educating people, it rings true exactly what scammers can do and there is nothing the scammers won’t do to get your money.

“The problem is so many people have the ‘it won’t happen to me’ mindset, when in reality the people behind these scams do not know or care who you are. Fraud and scamming is something that will not go away and has the potential to present itself to everyone. This is why it is so important for people who use the internet to be aware of their surroundings, be assertive and look out for strange or unusual emails, links and websites. The key rule is that if you are unsure, don’t go there and never give out your details to somebody you don’t know or trust.

“There are many types of online scammers, and it is important to familiarise yourself with the facts. While we do the best we can to limit the risk for our customers, it is up to everyone who uses the Internet to make appropriate decisions on links they follow and details they give out.”

How to tell if the email you've received is a phishing scam

  • You receive an email or SMS which seems to be from your bank, service provider or a business you don’t have an account with.
  • The email contains a link that leads you to a website where you are prompted to enter your bank account details. Remember Heritage does not include links in ANY email communications – so if an email has a link in it, it’s not from us.
  • The email does not address you by your proper name.
  • The email might contain typing errors and grammatical mistakes.
  • The email might claim that your details are needed for a security and maintenance upgrade, to ‘verify’ your account or to protect you from a fraud threat.
  • The email might even state that you are due to receive a refund for a bill or other fee that it claims you have been charged.

REMEMBER: While Heritage may send informational, alerts or confirmatory receipt emails, Heritage will NEVER send an email that would request the disclosure of any personal security details such as your PIN, Internet Banking Passwords, Credit Card details or require you to click on links or attachments within the email to update or verify details.

For more information

For more information about security when managing your financial affairs online with Heritage Bank, visit our online services security page or see examples of previous fake emails by visiting our security alert page.

If you ever suspect any unusual activity when using Heritage internet banking or the Heritage website call our Contact Centre on 131422 (8:30 am - 7 pm Mon-Sat), or email fraudalert@heritage.com.au.

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