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Protecting yourself from scam targeting

Scams are now part and parcel of being online. Whether you’ve been specifically targeted before or not, the presence of opportunistic scammers is growing each year.

New research from Suncorp Bank and Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) School of Justice and Chair in Digital Economy has found that although instances of scams are universally on the rise, scammers are increasingly targeting everyday Australians when they are most vulnerable.

Quick scam facts

Instances of scams are on the rise. Here are the facts:

  • Scams are largely under reported – a reported $500M loss from FY18 is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Scammers don’t discriminate – anyone can become a victim of a scam, irrelevant of your age, financial capacity or socio-economic background.
  • Prevention and early intervention is best – rather than leaving your information privacy up to chance, make sure you’ve protected all your devices with the right security programs.
  • Scammers are expert manipulators – scammers are adept at convincing their victims that they are in the right and any advice from family or friends is wrong.
  • Scams are most effective in insolation – perpetrators of scammers rely on confusion and misinformation to succeed. Targeting vulnerable victims helps increase the scammer’s chance of success.

Am I vulnerable to being scammed?

Sophisticated scam techniques mean that anyone can become a victim at any time. However, the research has found that scammers are increasingly focused on targeting people during big life events such as divorce, illness, moving to a new house and retirement.

QUT’s Dr Cassandra Cross, an expert in the behavioural indicators behind scams, highlights that Australians are more at risk when they’re facing a moment or period of change:

“If you’re ending a long-term relationship or going through divorce you might be more likely to fall for a romance scam, or if you’re planning to retire you might be at greater risk of an investment scam, and if you’re moving house may fall victim to a financial scam.”

Suncorp Behavioural Economist Phil Slade also said these findings highlight that scammers play on a person’s inability to process information in a rational way:

“Change, both positive and negative, reduces a person’s ability to digest information in a rational way because we are focusing our energy on navigating the change. Scammers play on this vulnerability.”

If you’re going through a difficult time, there’s some things you can do to protect yourself and those you care about.

New vulnerability research: Top tips

The new research advises people to be vigilant and aware, especially during moments of life change:

  • Watch out for romantic contact from unknown sources, especially if you’re going through a divorce or separation.
  • Be extra cautious around holidays, including Christmas, Valentines Day, end of financial year or other festive events. Scammers know these events are usually busy or emotional times with family and friends, meaning you’ll be more time poor and distracted.
  • If you’re moving house be extra careful of offers that seem too good to be true. The stress of moving house may make it harder for you to stop a financial scam.
  • Transitioning to retirement can leave you open to scams from fake lotteries, unsound investment opportunities and dishonest romantic proposals. Being extra aware during your transition from work to retirement could save you the pain of recovering lost money or assets needed for your post-work years.

Phil Slade recognises how difficult it can be to navigate big life changes and the growing presence of scam professionals. “Sadly, when we experience the feeling of loss, our normal risk lens completely flips – we’re more likely to take higher risks for less return with the desire to make up for the loss.”

Recognise the signs

While we can try our hardest to be in the know when it comes to the latest scams, sometimes small details can slip through the cracks. You should always be looking out for these tell-tale signs:

  • Check for poor grammar and spelling in written communications.
  • Be aware of communications that aren’t formatted consistently. If the colours/artwork appears off, it may be a scam.
  • Check whether the sender’s email address looks genuine. If you receive something from a similar address to what you’re used to, it could be fraudulent.
  • Look for the secure https:// at the beginning of web links. If it’s missing, don’t click on it.
  • Be wary of calls that ask for your personal details or access to your computer remotely.

Guard your passwords

Password theft is common. Make it harder for scammers to target you with some easy to implement password rules:

  • Make sure your passwords aren’t written down anywhere for others to find.
  • Never share our personal or security details over the phone or in an email.
  • Choose ‘easy to remember, but hard to guess’ passwords.
  • Change your passwords regularly.
  • Only use trusted apps such as the Suncorp Secured App to access your account.

Learn about the latest scams

Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams. We recommend checking the ACCC website regularly to stay on-top of any new scams.

Listen to others’ experiences

Many victims don’t tell their story because they’re embarrassed about becoming a victim of a scam. Those that do share their stories and experiences are a wealth of knowledge for others to draw from and use to better protect themselves. Talk to your friends and family about things they’ve experienced – it could save you from falling victim to the same or similar scam.

Protect yourself online

At Suncorp, the safety and security of our customers is our number one priority. While being vigilant about your privacy and security is important at all times, we understand that it can be hard to spot a scam, especially if you’re stressed or emotional.

If you’re in doubt about something to do with your privacy or security, we’re here to help. If you suspect your security has been compromised, you can contact us immediately for assistance.

Learn How To Stay Safe Online

Any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs. Read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Product Information Document before making any decisions about whether to acquire a product.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.