19 March 2007
Protect your computer from internet scams
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has advised consumers of steps they could take to help protect themselves from internet scams.
‘The internet permeates our lives in ways that were unimaginable ten years ago,' said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘It is now intrinsic to social and commercial interactions and the provision of information in ever expanding areas such as education and entertainment. Unfortunately, the internet is not free from scams and scammers. Some scams are specifically designed to take advantage of the types of interactions occurring on the internet.'
ACMA suggests internet users could take the following simple precautions to protect themselves from internet scams.
1. Keep your protection software up-to-date
Use computer protection software, including anti-virus software, to prevent viruses and other malware (malicious software) from exposing you to scams that may result in personal and sensitive information being sent from your computer without your knowledge.
Make sure you regularly download and install the latest security patches for all your computer software, including web browser applications. Use an ‘auto-update' function if this option is provided. Make sure that you have a computer ‘firewall' to help prevent malicious access to your computer.
2. Don't respond in any way to unsolicited emails
Opening spam messages may also lead to malware being secretly installed on your computer. If you have opened an unsolicited email, think before you click—clicking on links in such emails may take you to websites where malware is installed on your computer without you knowing.
Be very suspicious of emails from an unknown origin, especially ones that promise you money, good health or a solution to all your problems. Be sceptical of offers that are too good to be true—they usually are!
Don't disclose personal information. Never respond to an email requesting confidential banking details such as your PIN or internet banking password.
3. If in doubt, delete
If you receive an email that seems dubious—for example, the subject line looks suspicious or you don't recognise the sender—it is safest to delete it immediately without opening it.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
Consumer scams are crimes of dishonesty such as forgery, counterfeiting, on-line deception, and theft that are targeted at people who seek to purchase goods and services. Potential victims can be those who use fixed line or mobile phones, computers and the internet, older people, and those who use professional advisers.
Fraud perpetrated using the internet is emerging as a significant concern. For example, in a recent Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) consultation paper on the review of the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Code, ASIC states in relation to internet banking fraud that:
‘Industry estimates of net losses have been in the vicinity of $25 million per year in recent years; however, it acknowledged that this is only a round figure and that the total costs....may be higher.'
In the context of this emerging online environment ACMA considers it appropriate to provide internet users with advice on some simple steps they can take to minimise the likelihood of their falling prey to internet scams. ACMA's interest in this issue is closely associated with its anti-spam activities, although by virtue of their criminal nature acts of fraud do not fall within ACMA's regulatory jurisdiction.
As part of a whole of Government approach to combat consumer fraud and scams targeted at consumers, the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce was established in March 2005 and comprises 18 government regulatory agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand. ACMA has joined forces with these agencies to raise awareness about scams and fraud prevention.
The four-week campaign was launched by the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce on 5 March to help people protect themselves from scams. The theme for the third week of the campaign is 'Protect Your Computer'.
Agencies participating in the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce:
Australian Government: Attorney General's Department; Australian Bureau of Statistics; ACMA; Australian Competition & Consumer Commission; Australian Federal Police (represented by the Australian High Tech Crime Centre); Australian Institute of Criminology; ASIC; and the Department of Communications, Information Technology & the Arts.
New Zealand Government: NZ Commerce Commission; Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
State and Territory Governments: Australian Capital Territory – Office of Fair Trading; Consumer Affairs Victoria; New South Wales – Office of Fair Trading; Northern Territory – Department of Justice; Queensland – Department of Tourism, Fair Trading and Wine Industry Development; South Australia – Office of Consumer & Business Affairs; Tasmania – Office of Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading; Western Australia – Department of Consumer & Employment Protection.
Taskforce members are joined in communicating with Australian consumers about scams by a range of community, non-Government and private sector organisations. Visit the ScamWatch website for a list of Taskforce partners.
Consumers who think they've spotted a scam can check the ScamWatch website which has detailed information about scams, or can report a scam on 1300 795 995.