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Phone use

Scams are up as lockdown hits home in July

With much of the country in lockdown in July, scammers and criminals have been busy, targeting NSW aggressively.

There’s yet more reason to stay aware of all the things happening in your inbox and the possibility of scams, as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the ACCC, has found July proved to be an aggressive month for scammers targeting Australians.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch site which tracks scam reports across a variety of categories found that June and July saw a large amount of scams hitting home, with the June period accounting for nearly $32 million in losses of reported scams, while the July period counted just over $27 million.

It means that scammers are doing big business, with the majority of those reports coming from New South Wales, the state hit the hardest since lockdown began near the end of June. Weeks have gone by and lockdown continues, and that could give criminals more leverage to make their threats, with more people sitting by their phones, tablets, and computers as they stay in their homes. Thanks, coronavirus.

“Scammers continue to be very active with their tactics, adapting to the latest trends and the latest data from the ACCC’s Scamwatch demonstrates how costly this is for Australians,” said Crispin Kerr, Vide President of Proofpoint Security for the Australia and New Zealand area.

“At the current rate, Australia is well on track to surpass the record amount lost to scammers in 2020, and we are only just over halfway through the year,” he said.

“Although in July we saw a slightly lower amount of money lost than in June, it still represents an increase of more than 120% compared to the same time last year and is still significant at more than $27 million. July also saw a 11% increase in the number of scams reported to the ACCC with more than 26,700 reports, the highest number of scams in ten months.”

The news isn’t great for your inbox, sadly, and means more scams are likely, as criminals do what they can to make an impact and give you a reason to click or convince you with lines that what they send is legitimate.

In the past few weeks, those scams have seemingly increased, with fake Australia post scams, fraudulent voicemail alert messages with Android malware hidden inside, more of those Microsoft scam calls, and more. Our inboxes are becoming quite the minefield for criminals, and being at home throughout the lockdown may well be the reason why.

“Scammers are evidently capitalising on the ongoing lockdown forced by the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has left many in difficult financial situations,” said Kerr.

“Scammers are tapping into feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to successfully steal money from hard working Australians and sadly, this kind of social engineering is proving to be very effective,” he said.

Beating these scam emails isn’t easy, but it may come down to reading what you’re receiving and taking it with a grain of salt.

Scams that are clearly scams will likely promise you something in exchange for a click. A delivery is inbound or you’re winning a prize, or even something like a romantic interest suddenly appearing in your inbox. Take things with a grain of salt.

There’s also the other side with scams based on threats, and these will typically pop up with the lure that someone has something on you, and that you need to pay up.

Both are types of scams, and there are numerous types, ranging from fake charity scams, dating scams, false billing scams, and so on and so on.

There are so many types of scams, it can all be rather dizzying, but paying attention to the signs can help you, such as:

  • Read the email address carefully, and not just the email name: scammers can’t use a legitimate email address, and will often use something outlandish or a close imitation to convince you of the legitimacy. To find this, check the email address next to the email name, which is where the fake address will sit.
  • Look for spelling errors: typically scams aren’t written by locals, so they may come with poor English and grammar. Check the phrasing to carefully.
  • Don’t click on links from people you don’t know: much like how we’re taught not to take sweets from a stranger, don’t click on a link from someone you don’t know. These links can lead you to phishing sites designed to look like the real thing (but aren’t), which can confuse you enough to hand over details at the fake website.
  • Take everything with a grain of salt: there are so many scams going around with false promises that it can be very easy to just believe the emails that come in, but take everything with a grain of salt and question “is this really legit?”

Pay close attention to your inbox, read things through, and do what you can to not get caught. You don’t want to be one of the numbers that amounts to a loss, because that’s something that can hit you hard.

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