Cyber security experts have warned about a growing wave of scams arriving for Christmas. Picture: iStock
Cyber security experts have warned about a growing wave of scams arriving for Christmas. Picture: iStock

Internet scams you need to beware of this Christmas

FROM gift card frauds and tax scams to fake holiday ads and appeals for charities that don't exist, Australians are unwrapping a host of new scams this Christmas and they're harder to pick than ever.

Huge number of bargain-hunting, lonely, and time-poor Aussies are already being caught out in these online tricks, security experts warn, but the end-of-year rush will see a spike in attempts to steal your money.

Australians have already lost more than $101 million to scams this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ScamWatch program, breaking records even though the year was not yet over.

Unisys Asia Pacific security services director Ashwin Pal said the holiday season would exacerbate the problem, as scammers sought to take advantage of stressed and vulnerable Christmas shoppers.

"Why do lions hunt for prey at the watering hole? It's where the prey hangs out," he said.

"Christmas is basically the watering hole: everyone is online, everyone is buying stuff, and if you take time to lure people you will catch them. The unfortunate thing is scammers try this because it actually works."

Mr Pal said Australians should expect to see increasingly sophisticated scams this year as criminals invested more resources in duplicating legitimate email messages, online stores and web ads, making them look almost indiscernible from the real things.

Criminals attempt to exploit shoppers with scams involving digital gift vouchers, online shopping, fake charities, and fraudulent holiday deals. Picture: iStock
Criminals attempt to exploit shoppers with scams involving digital gift vouchers, online shopping, fake charities, and fraudulent holiday deals. Picture: iStock

Former Australian government cyber security strategy lead Lynwen Connick, who now heads ANZ's information security division, said the institution was already seeing more scams involving digital gift vouchers, online shopping, fake charities, and fraudulent holiday deals.

In what she called an "upsetting" trend, scammers were also targeting lonely hearts this Christmas.

"We're seeing this year is a spike in romance scams; more than we've seen in previous years," she said.

"It's really disturbing that criminals are trying to take advantage of people's generosity and vulnerability and the fact that some people can get quite lonely at this time of year."

Ms Connick said the bank launched more than 600 scam investigations between November and February, including the case of a 67-year-old man who tried to send $1000 to a Russian woman with whom he'd struck up a relationship over email.

Frauds are also targeting lonely people. Picture: iStock.
Frauds are also targeting lonely people. Picture: iStock.

The scam unit was able to stop the payment and identify the passport photo she had sent him as a fake.

But scams were also tricking even savvy internet users this Christmas, Ms Connick warned, "because of the time pressures at this time of year, financial pressures" and "quick decisions".

She recommended Australians paused before sharing any personal information, used two-factor authentication where possible, and report suspicious activity.

Mr Pal said Australian consumers should also ensure the software on their devices was up to date, that their data had been backed up, and only shop on secure websites.

 

12 SCAMS OF CHRISTMAS

Travel ad traps: Appearing on social networks and seemingly legitimate websites, these 'holiday packages' will depart with your credit card details.

Parcel alerts: Fake missed delivery emails entice victims to download malware to their computer.

Unknown charities: You can verify legitimate charities at the ACNC Charity Register (acnc.gov.au/charity).

Digital gift cards: Do not click on links to online vouchers from people you don't know.

Fake auction listings: Never agree to purchase an item outside the online auction site.

Fraudulent Christmas shops: Online shoppers should research traders and check their contact details before handing over payments.

Social media links: Shortened web links are hard to scrutinise. You can check them at checkshorturl.com before clicking.

Insecure websites: Always look for the lock icon in the corner of a website address bar before submitting payments.

Fake reviews: Dodgy dealers sometimes pay for fake customer reviews on sites like Amazon.com. Firms like Fakespot.com check their legitimacy.

Romance scams: Scammers attempt to strike up a relationship with the victim via email, and then ask for money.

Public wi-fi: Do not conduct financial transactions over public wi-fi networks as they are easily exploited.

Tax threats: The Australian Taxation Office will not threaten you with arrest in a recorded phone message.



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