As we spend more of our business and leisure time online, scammers have adapted their techniques to match.
Australians lost more than $630 million to scams last year, and recent figures reveal that fraud activity is on the rise.
The disruptions to our lifestyle are likely to be exploited by scammers.
For example, tasks that might previously have been carried out in person are now done over the phone, where we have fewer social cues. As a result, phone scams are through the roof.
At the same time, many are interested in health and COVID-19 information.
People are more inclined to click on links and visit untrusted websites in this process.
Two groups of scams have been doing the rounds.
The first group is financial scams, playing on our economic slowdown, and allowances like JobKeeper.
Scammers contact potential victims and advise that they are eligible for a payment. They will then collect the victims' details.
We have seen scammers then access the victims' superannuation funds or bank accounts. There is a huge rise in impersonation of the Australian Tax Office and MyGov.
The second group is health related, trying to exploit public fear.
For example, a scam text message may warn of a local COVID-19 outbreak.
The victims may be prompted to react quickly and hand over their details.
To stay safe, verify the identity of anyone who makes contact, and never use any contact details that they provide.
Never click on links or use phone numbers from an unsolicited message.
For instance, if you get a text message claiming to be from the ATO, then look up the proper phone number for the ATO and you call them yourself.
Scammers also play on emotions and try to get their victims to act quickly, without thinking it through.
Always take a step back to consider before taking any action.
If a call or message requests some action then don't commit to anything on the spot. Instead, call back using the contact details that you have verified.
If you think you have been scammed it is important to report it.
A free support service called ID Care Australia is available on 1800 595 160.
Unfortunately, scam activity will only increase over time as scammers change their tactics.
So, these threats will remain after this pandemic is over.
Online safety is an enduring concern, and we must all remain vigilant to protect ourselves and those around us.
Dr Nik Thompson, School of Management at Curtin University
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