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Getting scammed: our advice for Scams Awareness Week

Cyber Security Consumer

Posted on August 12, 2019

2 min read

Did you know that in the five months to 31 May 2019 Australians submitted more than 75,000 reports to Scamwatch, with a total financial loss of $46.3m? Did you know that at Telstra, we detect and block millions of spam and scam emails to our customers every day, and issue takedown notices to hundreds of fake websites each year that are designed to trick our customers into providing payments and collect personal information?

Sadly, these stats show we need to be more vigilant than ever when it comes to scams and protecting ourselves against financial loss or identity theft.

Scammers are persistent and regretably part of our everyday life. The rapid uptake of new technologies provides a nearly always-on connected world, but the flip side is it also provides new avenues for crime and fraud.

Some of us might think we are above being scammed and that we can spot a scam a mile away, while others may be oblivious to what is real and what is not. It can be difficult to know what to look out for and as Scams Awareness Week is upon us so let me see if I can help with some tips – and remember, it always pays to be a little suspicious.

Real vs. fake – the unsolicited phone call

Luckily there are a few easy ways to tell whether the person on the other end of the line is who they say they are.

Firstly, Telstra will never call you and threaten to cancel your service or take court action if you don’t immediately make a payment or hand over your information.

We will never make an unsolicited call asking for remote access into your computer or demand your sensitive personal or financial information.

Telstra staff should only ever treat you with respect and courtesy.

If you get an unexpected call from someone who says they are a Telstra representative, try to verify the person is who they say they are – or call us back on the number listed on our official website; never use the contact details the caller provided you.

If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut – take the time to stop and think about it, and if you feel uncomfortable, just hang up.

Phishing emails

These types of scams have been around for years and are constantly reinventing themselves across the globe. Some common variants of this scam attempt to either:

  • mimic a Telstra bill that, when recipients click the ‘view bill’ button, sends them to a malicious site, or
  • direct recipients to a fake but realistic looking Telstra login page in an attempt to then capture their credit card details and/or personal information.

Be vigilant. It is also important to note that, while these kinds of scams have evolved over time, the tips on how to protect yourself remain the same:

  • Listen to your gut. If you encounter something unsolicited, unexpected, too good to be true, or coercive – or anything that asks for personal or financial information – double and then triple check it by asking others, calling up the organisation on its official number or searching online for any background information on the sender or offer.
  • Beware of unsolicited requests for sensitive information – don’t open attachments or click on embedded links in emails or sites you don’t know or trust.
  • Pay close attention to the sender’s email address and any links in emails for anything that doesn’t look legitimate.
  • Never respond to a request for personal information in an unexpected email or pop-up.
  • Make sure you always apply the latest updates to all your devices and software.
  • If the email contains a Telstra account number, check that the number corresponds with the account number on your previous bill.

What if I’ve fallen victim to a scammer?

If you’ve lost money or given a scammer your personal or financial information, there are several things you can do to limit the damage.

The first step is to contact your bank as soon as possible. They might be able to block a transaction or put a hold on your account to protect you from further financial loss.

The next thing to do is change your passwords. If you think one of your online accounts have been compromised, change your password immediately to lock out the scammers – and ensure you aren’t reusing passwords across multiple accounts (to make this easier, you might consider using a secure and trustworthy password manager).

If you believe your identity may have been compromised, you can also contact IDCARE. The not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service can help you respond to your specific situation. Tell your family and friends. You can help protect other people from falling victim to the same type of scam.

Stay alert

The best way to protect yourself is to stay alert to all the different kinds of scams that are out there. You can do this through the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, Telstra’s cyber scams guidance for general tips on how to keep protected, or our active scams page which provides specific information on the latest scams we’ve seen.

Scam checklist

  • Unsolicited call that contains a threat, like a fine or disconnection of internet service.
  • Pressure to hand over financial or personal information.
  • Demand for immediate payment, generally through unusual methods like gift card vouchers (iTunes, Google Play, Netflix or Steam, for example), wire transfer, or Bitcoin.
  • Request for remote access to your computer to ‘fix a problem’.

Scams Awareness Week is 12 – 18 August 2019.