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Email thieves are out to steal your money!

Let’s cut to the chase. The online world is not secure and we all need to protect ourselves from being duped by masterful thieves into giving away information that lets them steal money and/or our identity.

That innocent email from a strange address which might ask you to click for further information or reply to a request for more information could be a trap.

How many times have you received a message in your inbox notifying you that you’re the winner of a lottery in Nigeria, or some other faraway country? Usually, lottery schemes operate by asking the target to pay a certain amount to redeem the cash prize, or to pay for the “shipping and handling” to receive other goods. They might also ask for bank routing and account numbers and other highly personal information, which is then used for theft.

We are all targets

A Pew Research Internet user study found that many adults over the age of 74 use the Internet solely for health information, news, and buying products, and are not as savvy when it comes to email, social networking, and online safety.

The Norton LifeLock survey revealed 52 per cent of working Australians claim to have received a fake phishing email scam, with one in ten (10%) losing money or personal information as a result.

And beware, if scammers can’t get you to directly hand over the password to your online bank account, they’ll try to steal your identity or infect your computer with spyware – which, in turn, can be used to procure personal information to access your money.

Signs of scamming

Keep your guard up, and always keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious. Look for misleading signals in an email and never open attachments if you are unsure.

According to Norton key tell-tale signs include incorrect logos within the email; the communication does not address you as the recipient by name; it is not sent from a legitimate vendor email address; is unexpected; the message contains poor grammar; and/or, the email asks you to click a link that appears to lead to a government website but when hovering over the link it does not lead to an official web address.

Protect yourself

Here are some useful tips:

  1. Know the status of your bank accounts: The Norton LifeLock survey revealed that one in ten respondents (11%) claim to never monitor their bank account for fraud, while 20 per cent have never changed their online bank account logins. Getting to know your finances will ensure you can identify any unexpected changes in your account as a result of cybercrime quickly. Monitor your credit cards for unauthorised charges, as well as your credit report for new accounts that you didn’t open. Fraudulent activity may indicate that you’re at higher risk of further fraud.
  2. Be Suspicious. If you are generally trusting, being sceptical can be difficult. However, being generally suspicious of emails that promise huge benefits is an effective way to stay protected. 
  3. Surf only reputable websites. On your computer or device adjust email spam settings to the highest level, and never share personal information like Social Security numbers with anyone online – even if it seems as though your bank is requesting it. Call the bank first. 
  4. Never give personal information online. An investment company or charity will never ask for a Social Security number via email. If you or your loved one receive an email requesting personal data, bank routing numbers, or other private information, it’s probably a scam. 
  5. Check the BBB. The Better Business Bureau is a fantastic tool for confirming the legitimacy of financial institutions, charities, and other organisations. Always check with the BBB before offering up funds. If a company isn’t registered with the BBB, it could be fraudulent. A quick Internet search might also turn up information from people who have been scammed by a similar scheme. 
  6. Fraudulent investment schemes are rife on the internet. So, invest carefully. The most fool-proof investments are done with the assistance of a financial advisor, not a random acquaintance or someone who emails you. It takes only a few minutes to contact your bank or planner, and it could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Find a planner or counsellor you can trust and run all investment ideas by them first. 
  7. Don’t pay to play. Never provide money to gain a prize. When someone asks for a routing number to deposit funds, or for shipping and handling charges for a “free” prize, it’s a clear sign that it’s not legit. 
  8. Report. Stop corresponding with the suspected scammers and report the scam to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). We also suggest that you contact your bank immediately if you have provided your financial details or recently transferred money. Visit ACCC's SCAMwatch website for more detailed information on action you can take after being scammed.

More information

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's (ACCC) SCAMwatch website and ASIC's MoneySmart website contain detailed information on scams and how to avoid and report them.

We've also compiled some helpful tips for avoiding phone scams.

Learn more

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