In the first three months of 2020, Australians lost more than $36.5 million to domestic and international con artists through a range of scams that included identity theft, false billing or online shopping swindles.
Figures from the government’s Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) show that of the 32,000 reports received during this period, 80 per cent (or 26,000) of the reported scams targeted their victims via social networking sites, email or mobile applications.
Australians aged 55 or over are often an attractive target for scammers, with those in this demographic deemed to have more money and more accumulated wealth than younger people.
They are also seen by scammers as generally less internet and computer savvy and are viewed as being less familiar with new technologies.
To help halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the government is urging Australians to consider downloading the COVIDsafe app to their smart phones or tablets.
But with the ACCC’s Scamwatch already receiving over 1,000 coronavirus-related scam reports since the outbreak, it serves as a timely warning for vulnerable Australians to ensure they are practicing the following online practices.
Create strong passwords for your online accounts
According to research out of America, half of all seniors do not use the password feature on at least one of their internet-enabled devices, leaving it easily accessible to whoever picks it up. Locking all of your devices with a strong password of at least 12 characters long that utilise a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, will keep prying eyes out and add a line of defence in case your devices are lost or stolen.
Enable two-step authentication
Since passwords can be stolen, adding two-step authentication to accounts provides a second layer of protection. Many online services, including apps and websites, offer free options that could help you protect your information and ensure it’s actually you trying to access your account – not just someone in possession of your password.
Think before acting
Emails and messages that convey a sense of urgency such as a problem with your bank account or taxes are most likely fraudulent. Consider reaching out directly to the company requesting the information by phone to determine if the email or message is legitimate.
Trust your instinct
Clicking on links in emails is often how scammers get access to your personal information. If an email looks dicey, has poor grammar or boasts an unusual address, it’s best to delete it. Remember that scammers can commandeer friends’ email addresses and send you messages posing as them. Turn on spam filters for your email account to help filter suspicious messages.
Use security software
Download security software on your devices from a reliable source and ensure you keep it updated. It is best to run the anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly. Be wary of security updates from pop-up ads or emails. They may actually be malware that could infect your computer.
Remember to log out of apps, websites and social media when you are finished using them. Leaving them open on your computer screen could make you vulnerable to security and privacy risks.
Ask for help
If you live alone or spend a lot of time by yourself, consider asking a trusted source to serve as a second set of eyes and ears. Adult family members and grandchildren who are computer-savvy may be willing to help and may help advise you on what to look out for when it comes to unusual activity on your accounts or devices.