Scam proof yourself

The West Australian, YOURMONEY, September 5, 2016:

Did you enjoy census night? If you were really lucky – like the PM you logged in, filled out your census, hit submit, then took the time for a little smug self-congratulation via social media.

If you were unlucky, you spent 20 minutes or so filling out the form and only got the error message when you hit the submit button.

While financial institutions and other organisations that process large volumes of payments put in place a number or safeguards and checks to protect your information, and money, the process simply can’t be foolproof

Gone are the days when an African king had to die for you to be the lucky recipient of untold wealth and a hacked identity. Now, scammers are using far more authentic ways to trick unwary victims into divulging their information. Fake invoices or refunds from well-known corporations and government agencies such as Telstra are common. The victim will receive an email or message that will often have things like corporate logos and what appear to be legitimate contact details and links with an invitation to click or call for more details. Some scammers are even phoning victims directly with the threat of heavy fines for outstanding tax debts.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from these predators?

In the case of email scams, the most important thing to remember is don’t click on the link.

  • Reading an email in your inbox shouldn’t cause any problems, it’s only when you click on a link or open an attachment that you are effectively inviting the harmful software into your computer.
  • If you are concerned that the email may in fact be accurate, contact the organisation directly. Don’t use any link provided in the email, simply search online for the relevant organisation and use their contact information to find the person you need to talk to.
  • If you are contacted via phone, you simply need to politely inform the carer that you never hand over your details to an incoming caller and let them know that you will contact their organisation directly to arrange the necessary transaction and hang up.
  • If the carer claims to be an Australian Taxation Office officer, you can request their full name, their extension number and the name of their team leader, plus the team leader’s extension number.
  • The same applies to any emails and SMS messages claiming to be from the ATO. They should also be treated with suspicion. Before clicking on links or opening attachments, contact the ATO on 1800 008 540 or via email at ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au

If you are unsure about any of the possibilities discussed in this article and how they could apply to you, contact the organisation that is managing your finances and ask what security measures they have in place. If their response is unconvincing or evasive, you might want to hang up on them too.

Troy MacMillan is founder of TWD