Internet scams and fraud
While the internet provides a substantial source of information and opportunity, unfortunately there are also possibilities of scams which looks to access both personal and asset based data.
Statistics gathered in 2015 found that over $13 million dollars was lost via internet fraud. On average this broke down to nearly $13,000 per victim, in one case an individual lost $2.1 million. Comparing these cases to those found in the UK, their yearly average jumps to £670 million.
Carefully and thoroughly thought out, online scam artists devise their schemes to convince and manipulate the vulnerable. Playing on emotional frailty and unfamiliarity with technology, they pounce on an individual’s lack of awareness to extort information for personal gain.
The Commission for Financial Capability have created a helpful guide called 'Little Black Book of Scams' which outlines how people can protect themselves from scams. This guide can be found on their website.
To assist those who’re concerned with their own security online, listed below are examples of common scamming and also tips into how you to better protect your personal information.What is online/internet scamming or fraud?
An online scam occurs when a con artist uses the internet to convince person/s into giving them money, goods or personal information. Using a variety of methods and platforms to deceive their victims, these criminals are often charismatic and alluring.
Common types of scams
Phishing scams are when con artists contact a large group of people in the hope of gathering personal information (e.g. bank details, device passwords/pins, address’ etc.) to then defraud their victims. Claiming to represent a trustworthy organisation (e.g. Bank, Government Agency, School), they use this pre-existing assurance as a way of duping their victims. Though the scam may seem personally targeted at an individual, they’re often sent to large groups of people as it increases the possibilities of someone falling for their deception. Common examples are the junk emails which claim ‘you have won the lottery’, and in order to receive your winnings you have to enter personal details to prove you’re the lucky individual.
Using social media, email and online dating sites, romance scammers use these platforms to create relationships with people in the hope that this bond gives them a better opportunity at receiving money or information from their victims. Using fake profiles and pictures they’ve found of people online, these criminals use the internet to mask their own identity and make it hard to track them down once caught out.
Making the promise of hefty returns with little to no risk on your initial investment, this type of scam see criminals making false claims in the hope of luring their victims into making large if not unsustainable investments. Common investment scams mention high growth companies, foreign exchange and carbon credits.
Seen both in business and with individuals, this type of scam occurs when fake invoices are made in requesting payments that weren’t asked for by the company or individual. Con artists will often do this with the adage of scare tactics such as threatening added interest or effect on credit ratings to further convince their victims into the legitimacy of their request and use fear as a means of forcing payment.
Unsolicited goods scams
Common reports that fall under this type of scam are situations where an individual or group have received goods without having ordered them. What follows is a payment request on behalf of a corporation and often intimidation and legal threats are used as scare tactics to convince the victim into paying off the debt. Victim’s details are usually obtained through enrolment to online subscriptions or accounts, under the impression that they will be unshared for any other means.
Social media trading scams
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are helpful tools in interacting and sharing content with friends and family. As well this, there are also ‘buying and selling’ groups that use the platforms as another way of selling an individual’s good. Unfortunately, there are a situations of fraud becomingly increasingly more frequent, leaving buyers left out of pocket after making payments but not receiving the promised goods. When buyers then look to follow up on the exchange, sellers will often delete their page, block the buyer or leave messages unanswered.
Tech support scams
Using names of familiar corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, Spark or Chorus, this type of scam sees criminals claiming to represent one of these organisations and assist you in the fixing or protecting from the viruses or software malfunctions on your devices. Attempting to obtain ‘remote access’ to your device, this is when someone is able to access a device or network from another location. It is important to know that these companies will never contact via telephone, which means you should hang up on anyone contacting you making these claims.
How to stay safe online
Although the internet can seem sophisticated and hard to handle as you try to manage your email subscriptions and countless passwords, there are a few ways you can assure yourself of a safer and less stressful time surfing the web.
- Make your password at least 15 characters’ long
- Use a phrase instead of a word
- Use a variety of passwords for each of your accounts
- Try an incorporate song lyrics you’ll remember
- Avoid using either your own or your kids name
- Restrict public access to your profile, photos and other private information such as your birthday or address
- Accept ‘friend’ requests from only people you know and avoid any interaction with strangers
- Be wary of entering or commenting personal details on group or corporations’ pages
- Remember that anything you post whilst online will stay online or is still retrievable, even after you have deleted or removed it
- Block, mute and report are all options when dealing with unwanted comments or messages from both people you know and strangers. Do not be afraid to use them.
- When something unpleasant or unwanted is posted in an attempt to harm your reputation or well-being, retaliation will in most cases only cause further problems. Instead we recommend privately asking for the post to removed and or report it for the platform moderators to handle
If you or anyone you know have been victims of online fraud or a scam as well as having any concerns about your online privacy and/or safety, please contact your local Age Concern and follow the links provided for further knowledge into how it may be resolved and educate yourself for future online encounters.
For more information please get in contact with your local Age Concern.
CertNZ - When you want to report a cyber security problem
You may find further information on these websites:
Consumer- Information on keeping safe on the internet
NetSafe- An organisation focused on online safety.
Commerce Commission- The Fair Trading Act