Staying safe on the internet: trust nobody

Cybercriminals are now so rampant on the Internet trying to rip off victims that it’s becoming safer to adopt a “trust nobody” attitude toward online transactions.

It’s become so bad that latest figures show cybercriminals are preying on individuals and businesses every 10 minutes, trying to drain victims’ bank accounts.

Romance and bank scams are the front runners in the cyber theft world, with one 65-year-old retiree reportedly losing $66,000 when he transferred money to what he thought was a legitimate bank account after buying a car from a dealership. He received an email with an invoice and bank details so he paid only to later discover either a cybercriminal had got into the dealership’s computer network and sent the email, or his email account could have been hacked.

Stories like this are sadly becoming commonplace. Retirees especially are being targeted by cybercriminals who claim to be from banks or internet service providers, claiming your computer has a virus they can remove if you give them control of your system.

Email scams have become so sophisticated honest people can easily be hoodwinked by a scammer. The safe option is never supply your log on details or passwords or bank account details to a caller or in response to an email unless you have initiated the contact with that institution.

Romance scams involve a criminal cultivating an online relationship with a person over several months before persuading them to transfer money for medical treatment or essential goods.

Bank scams involve a person being sent a text or email that appears to be from their bank, requesting login details to fix a problem with their credit card or online banking. If the person supplies the details, it allows the cybercriminal access to the bank account.

Compromised emails are one of the top issues being reported to the ACSC by businesses. For example, a criminal hacks into a business email account and pretends to be a legitimate employee and sends an email to another employee who might be the person who makes online payments and trick them into making an online payment to the criminal.

Ransomware is also in the news now with criminals taking control of your computer system and making you pay a ransom to get your computer system back in your control again.

It is estimated that cyber security incidents cost Australian businesses up to $29 billion every year.

People should regularly change their passwords for any bank or financial apps, create passwords that are not simple and therefore easy to guess, and don’t use the same password across all apps or accounts.

Scammers are everywhere and they are heartless. There are already reports of scammers posing as charities or tradies offering help to bushfire victims. Scam Watch reports almost $50,000 has been given to fake charities just this year. Fake charities operate all year round and especially after real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes and bushfires.

The simplest cyber safety rule to follow is, unless you have initiated the contact, to trust nobody who wants your passwords and log in details to your accounts.

All these scammers want is access to your bank account or identity details. Your internet virus checker is not a scam preventer. Common sense and a healthy degree of cynicism are your best friends to ward off the scammers.

Nicole Murdoch, Principal, Eaglegate Lawyers

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