According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 4 people are targeted by internet fraud each year and a whopping 800,000 people fall victim to these scams.
It is becoming increasingly important for consumers to be aware of the many ways that they can be defrauded. Fraudsters are becoming ever more cunning as they continue to find new ways to prey on and catch out innocent and unsuspecting customers.
Some of the most common types of personal fraud to be aware of include:
- Credit or bank card fraud - the unauthorised use of a credit or bank card.
- Identity theft - the theft and fraudulent use of personal details or documents such as passports, tax file numbers and drivers' licences, all of which can be used to conduct business or open new accounts in another person's name.
- Lottery - usually a scam by which a person is told that they have won a lottery that they didn't enter. The "winner" is then asked to provide personal information in order to prove their identity and/or send a fee or bank account details in order to get the prize.
- Phishing and related scams - a fraudulent request whereby the fraudster pretends to be from a business or a bank and asks the consumer to confirm various personal details such as bank account numbers and credit card details. This can be done through a variety of mediums such as post, in person, calling your landline or mobile telephone, with email and instant messaging usually the most common.
- Financial advice - unsolicited fraudulent financial advice can include offers such as investment seminars, real estate scams, share promotion or telemarketing or other similar tactics.
- Advance fee fraud - an unwelcome request to transfer money into a person's bank account. It is usually accompanied by an elaborate or dramatic story which concludes with requesting the respondent's assistance and account details in order to facilitate the transfer of a large sum of money. This request is normally coupled with a promise of a commission or fee for the respondent's assistance with the transaction but instead funds are illegally withdrawn from the respondent's account.
There are some simple practices that you can employ that will help to keep your personal details safe and minimise the risk of falling victim to personal fraud. Some such practices include:
- Use a locked mailbox to send and receive all mail
- Purchase and use a shredder when throwing away documentation such as financial statements, pre-approved credit applications and any tax related forms of correspondence.
- When using popular public networking sites like Facebook and MySpace limit your personal information disclosure as your details can be easily extracted from these platforms and used to steal your identity for criminal purposes.
- If and when you receive credit cards from your financial institution sign them as soon as you receive them.
- Regularly monitor your bank and credit card statements for any incorrect transactions or any irregular debits and promptly report these to the relevant organisation.
- Avoid using public computers, especially for accessing financial information, as they may contain viruses that can capture your personal banking details.
- Install and regularly update security software on your personal and work computer such as personal firewalls, virus and anti-spy protection.
- Generally speaking, it is best to ignore any spam email that is generated from unfamiliar addresses.
- Change your various electronic passwords regularly. This includes PINs, online banking logins and email account passwords.
- Keep your wits about you and logically assess the details of the request or offer before providing your details to any unfamiliar third parties. If necessary, seek professional advice.
As the world moves to using the computer and the internet for more and more aspects of life - from communicating and banking to shopping and searching - fraudsters are constantly developing more sinister and devious ways to capture unsuspecting targets along with still utilising the more traditional methods. Subscribing to the common adage of "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is" could serve you well here. Ask yourself seriously, if it is actually probable that you are the sole heir to a $33 million African fortune, for example.
If you suspect that you may have unfortunately fallen victim to an act of personal fraud please contact us on Report Fraud or submit an online enquiry. Additionally, please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information on how to better protect yourself from becoming a victim of personal fraud. We can help you to ensure that you have the correct procedures in place to protect you and your family's hard earned money.