SCAMwatch is aware that some consumers have lost several thousand dollars after responding to a bogus distress email which they mistakenly believed was from a loved one or friend in trouble.
While social networking sites can provide users with many benefits, scammers can use your personal information to con money from your family and friends. Scammers are targeting and gaining control of consumers' email and social networking accounts. Once a scammer has control of a consumer's account, they can change the password and pose as that person.
SCAMwatch has received reports of scammers posing as the profile user and sending out emails asking for help from friends and family. They may claim that while on holidays, they have been robbed and all of their money/possessions.
The scammer then asks the recipients of the email to send them money, usually via wire or money transfer, so they can pay for their hotel bill or other expenses to get home. Scammers commonly use personal information, such as where you are holidaying, to make their bogus emails sound as if they were written by you.
Scammers can gain control of consumers' email or social networking account through a number of means, including 'phishing' techniques. Phishing scams are all about tricking consumers into giving out their personal information to commit identity theft or steal money.
Scammers may also con consumers into downloading spyware or other malicious software onto their computer. Once installed, these viruses and programs could be used to steal email account passwords and other important personal details. The personal information you put on your social networking profile can also be used by scammers to guess your passwords.
Check the privacy settings and think about who you really want to have access to your personal information.
Be careful about what personal information you put on the internet, these details can be used by scammers to guess your passwords or to commit fraud.
Check how much information about you is available on the internet, why not type your name into a search engine and see how many hits you get.
Don't be lulled into a false sense of security, online 'friends' may not be who they say they are.
When you are on holiday, make sure family and friends have a way of contacting you other than by email - such as a mobile or through your hotel.
If you receive an email which appears to be from a family member or friend claiming to be in trouble look at the way the email is written, ask yourself whether the email sounds like it was written by that person. Try to contact them directly through an alternative means.
NEVER send your online account details through an email and think carefully before you give away any personal or financial information.
Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spy ware software. Also use a good firewall.
Report the matter to the ACCC's Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or visit the report a scam page in SCAMwatch.
Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about phishing scams and how you can protect yourself.