While scammers and hackers have always lurked on the internet, the COVID-19 pandemic gave them a massive advantage: we’ve been using the internet so much more often over the past three years, from remote work to online shopping, banking, and more. According to Australian comparison service Savvy, rates of cybercrime have sky-rocketed, with an 84% spike in scams since last year. At this point, we’ve all encountered scammers – fake phone calls from “Amazon”, anyone? – and some of us have fallen for them, with over $72 million lost to scammers from January to April.
So, why have online scams become so prevalent? Read on to learn who’s most affected, and how best to protect yourself!
In Australia, over 40% of cyber-attacks target small-to-medium enterprise (SME) businesses, largely because smaller businesses tend to have less cybersecurity protection. Ransomware is a particularly common threat – this is when malware infects your computer and encrypts your data, after which the scammers demand a ransom payment for decryption. With one cybercrime levied against Aussie businesses every ten minutes, it’s imperative for business owners to take care of their digital security.
Of course, your computer is not the only target for scammers. Phishing, hacking, and remote access scams are all major threats for smartphones, particularly through emails. The best way to protect yourself, your family, and your business is to understand your devices and their vulnerabilities. Establish protocols around identifying and protecting regulated, private, and sensitive data, update your hardware and software regularly, and provide cybersecurity training to staff to make sure everyone’s vigilant and on the same page.
In 2022, the ‘year of deep suspicion’, Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is a must in order to make sure your accounts and data are all secure. This will keep you safe from unauthorised access, but you also need to watch carefully for phishing in SMS, emails, and voicemails. Phishing is when scammers trick you into giving them private and secure information, such as your credit card or identity information.
A classic example is an email that tells you your bank account is overdrawn, leading you to click the link in the email to input your login details. It’s important to know that your bank will never ask you to log in via a link – if you see an email like that, look past the panic and examine it carefully! You might see typos, odd logos, or even a strange-looking email address. Always go to the website of your bank (or telco, or email, or any account!) instead of clicking links –and if in doubt, contact the help team of whatever service you’re concerned about.
Although scammers are more active than ever, we can all stay safe online by looking after our cybersecurity, and that starts with learning how! A great start is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) and their ScamWatch website, which will take you through what scams are, how they work, and how to avoid falling into scammers’ traps.
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