Australians are being scammed out of millions each year with credit card fraud, phishing, identity theft, and even romance scams growing year-on-year.
However, individuals who want to protect their hard-earned cash can adopt a number of strategies to protect themselves.
Australians suffer serious financial loss
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released its annual scams activity report, noting that $90 million of financial losses were reported in 2013.
"Actual losses are likely to be much higher than what is reported to the ACCC — people report scams to a number of agencies, some don't recognise that they have fallen for a scam, and unfortunately many others are too embarrassed to report their experience," said Delia Rickard, ACCC Deputy Chair and Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce Chair.
Scams aren't limited to credit card-related fraud only: Dating and romance scams surged to the top position for reported financial losses during 2013 ($25 million).
Be aware of existing scams
There are a number of scams that Australians succumb to. Being aware of what you could fall for is the first step in scam prevention.
Scammers continue to take advantage of Australians looking for love or companionship, although the proportion of individuals who respond to scam admirers' advances is dropping — in 2011 the figure was 48 percent, which dipped to 46 percent in 2012 and 43 percent in 2013, according to the ACCC.
Identity theft and phishing scams increased markedly in 2013, with reported scams surging by 73 percent year-on-year. However, financial losses were low, indicating scammers focus on obtaining personal information to use for gain at a later date.
Phishing scams trick individuals into disclosing passwords and personal details, such as transaction or savings account numbers or tax file numbers, according to the federal government.
Computer prediction software scams are worth keeping an eye out for - associated losses reached $9.1 million in 2013, which was more than double the 2012 figure.
Check website credentials
Online shopping is incredibly popular, but are you protecting yourself when pulling out the plastic?
Always check the credentials of any e-commerce website you use — make sure there's authorised payment software that's secure, and always type the URL in yourself, rather than clicking on email links.
Be vigilant about your banking
The Australian Federal Police notes that sophisticated bank-implemented software tends to stonewall scammers. Accordingly, fraudulent individuals directly target customers.
Take note of the above scams and protect yourself by following the Australian Bankers' Association's advice:
- Don't post too much personal information on social networking sites
- Set your social network profiles to private
- Apply a lock function to your smartphone and tablet
- Use official banking apps to complete transactions
- Get in touch with your bank if you lose your smartphone or tablet
- Install anti-virus software on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone
- Don't complete banking activities using unsecured wireless networks
Finally, here's the most important tip to remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it's possibly a scam!