Identity crime costs Australians more than $1.6 billion each year – and the people falling prey to credit card fraud, identity theft and scams are footing the bill. If your information falls into the wrong hands, your accounts could be emptied. What’s more, armed with basic information about your identity, someone else can apply for credit cards, run up debts, apply for government benefits and passports, even register a vehicle – all in your name.
So how can you protect your finances online?
Be aware of your risk
Scammers are savvy, and are continuously coming up with sophisticated strategies to get their hands on your money. They don’t discriminate, which means we are all at risk of becoming cybercrime victims. All it takes is one email, one unscrupulous shopping site, or even a weak password, to raise your risk of online identity theft.
Recognise and avoid email scams
Scammers are very clever at accessing email inboxes to nab your personal information, copies of identity documents such as a passport or driver’s licence, banking details, and other private data.
There are a few golden rules to follow when using email:
- Be aware of email scams.
- Never open emails from someone you don’t know and trust.
- Be aware of fake emails that appear to be from companies you’ve dealt with before.
- Never click links or open attachments, unless you’re expecting them.
- Delete suspect emails – or get advice to check the identity of the sender.
- Never verify or confirm your personal information, account details, or passwords via email. Contact the sender directly (don’t use the contact details in the email) to verify the email or report a scam.
Protect your finances when transacting online
These days we make all sorts of transactions online – banking, shopping, and paying bills for instance. And given that transacting online is now second nature to many of us, how can you ensure your information is secure and your identity remains your own?
Here are some ways you can protect yourself:
- Use the most secure settings on social media, so only people you know can see your personal details.
- Only use trusted, secure sites to make online payments. Look for the ‘s’ in https:// in the URL bar.
- Use the most recent operating systems and security software, and install updates when prompted.
- Protect your home Wi-Fi network with a password.
- Create strong passwords – as long, varied, and personal as possible. And use two-step authentication and account notifications if available.
- Don’t use the same password for several sites or accounts.
- Never do your online banking via an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot, which anyone can tap into to steal your login details and access your accounts.
- Never send money, or your banking or personal information to anyone you don’t know and trust.
So be smart and stay safe, both online and offline. Always be wary of unsolicited communication from someone over the phone, by post, email, on a social network, or in person. And if something seems suspicious or too good to be true, it likely is.
Australian Federal Police
* The information contained in this site is general and is not intended to serve as advice. DPM Financial Services Group recommends you obtain advice concerning specific matters before making a decision.