Security scams have cost Australians over $950,000 in 2017, with hacking, phishing and ransomware attacks the preferred weapons of choice for cyber criminals.
According to Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) Scamwatch findings, more than 15,000 reports have been filed since the turn of the year, with both individuals and organisations targeted across the country.
Specifically, hacking scams have hit victims the hardest during the past six months, with over $615,000 lost from more than 2,300 reported incidents.
Targeting mainly Queensland ($200,000 lost), Victoria ($197,000 lost) and New South Wales ($147,000 lost), individuals over the age of 55 have suffered most, with the age group losing more than $380,000 since January.
Unsurprisingly, hackers have struck predominantly through mobile phones, email and internet, accounting for losses of $255,000, $190,000 and $114,000 respectively.
Phishing scams are the most common scam impacting Australians however, with such reports standing 63 per cent higher than the next most popular category, following more than 11,000 incidents in 2017.
Again, statistics also show that older Australians (those aged 65+) are particularly vulnerable to this scam ($112,000 lost), with email or mobile phones the scammers’ preferred tool of the trade for contacting potential victims.
“Scammers use phishing to trick their victims into giving out valuable personal information such as their bank account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, or even their online passwords for their PayPal, Apple or social media accounts,” ACCC acting chair, Delia Rickard, said.
“Any personal information you have is potentially valuable to a scammer and they will try to get it off you in a variety of ways.”
Geographically speaking, NSW has experienced the greatest influx of phishing attacks, with over $145,000 lost compared to $54,000 and $29,000 in Victoria and Queensland respectively.
“The vast majority come either via the phone or email,” Rickard added. “The scammers will pretend to be representatives of well-known organisations, like a bank, phone company or government department like Centrelink or the Australian Tax Office to give them the air of legitimacy.
“The scammer may say that the bank or organisation is verifying customer records due to a technical error that wiped out customer data.
“Or, they may ask you to fill out a customer survey and offer a prize for participating. These are all part of a scammer’s bag of tricks they use to get you to give up your valuable personal data.”
Meanwhile, ransomware and malware accounts have resulted in the loss of over $80,000 during 2017, with more than 2,500 incidents reported.
Most common in Victoria ($27,000 lost), NSW ($23,000 lost) and Queensland ($16,000 lost), such threats have mainly targeted over 65 ($9,000 lost) and 45-54 age groups ($9,000 lost).
“We’re so used to providing our personal information when we sign up for services over the phone or shop online that sometimes we don’t think twice about giving it out,” Rickard added.
“However it’s very important you closely guard your personal information. Delete any email or hang up on a phone call that you receive out of the blue that is asking for your personal information—even if it purports to be from a well-known business or government organisation that you have previously dealt with and trust.
“If you think your information has been stolen by a scammer, report it to the relevant institution immediately.”