Have you ever received a phishy email? Seen an online classified ad for something that seemed too good to be true? Had a strange request from an online friend or admirer?
It may be that you have encountered an online scam. In 2011 consumers and small businesses contacted the ACCC almost 24,000 times to report scams they had encountered online, either through email or over the internet.
The internet breathes new life into old scams and generates fresh ones too.
Common online scams reported in 2011 included:
Dating and romance scams: These involve a scammer posting a fake profile on a legitimate dating website. The scammer will pose as a romantic interest and after gaining their victim’s trust, will make repeated requests money.
Scam emails: Phishing emails that 'fish' for your personal information are the most common email scam type. Scam emails which download malware, viruses and spyware are also common.
Social networking scams: These scams vary from dodgy surveys that steal personal details through to offers for fake gift vouchers and prizes. Scammers may also try to befriend victims by sending friend or follow requests, gaining access to sensitive personal details.
Online shopping, classifieds and auction scams: scammers target buyers and sellers through legitimate, trusted websites. They may post fake ads for goods and services at prices too good to be true and then request payment away from the site's secure payment facilities.
Protect yourself from online scams:
Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spy ware software. Also, use a good firewall.
Be alert to imitation websites which misuse logos, trust marks and seals of approval also check the web address thoroughly.
Never enter your personal, credit card or banking details on a website unless you have checked it is authentic and secure. Legitimate websites which ask you to enter sensitive personal details are commonly encrypted to protect your details.
This is usually identified by the use of “https:” rather than “http:” at the start of the internet address.
This can also be identified by a closed or unbroken key icon at the bottom right corner of your browser window.
If these are missing or there is an open padlock or broken key icon, the website is not secure and could be a scam site.
If you receive unsolicited emails, delete them immediately! Don't open any attachments, click on any links or reply, not even to unsubscribe.
Never click on suspicious links on social networking sites – even if they are from your friends.
Keep your personal details personal - be careful what information you share and post on social networking sites and with whom you share it– expect that people other than your friends can see it.
Don’t accept a friend request or a follow request from a stranger - people are not always who they say they are and the best way to keep scammers out of your life is to never let them in.
Protect your online bank email and social networking accounts with strong passwords and change them regularly - have a different password for each so that if one is compromised, not all of your accounts will be at risk.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.