Identity Theft Up 55%; Scammers Capitalise on COVID

Identity Theft Up 55% as Scammers Capitalise on COVID-19

The ACCC has released a report showing that the rates of identity theft are up 55% as scammers capitalise on the COVID-19 pandemic in their fraud campaigns. 

The numbers come from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who released a report showing that the number of identity theft cases has jumped 55% year-on-year compared to 2019 figures taken from the same time. 

Experts say this is due to the fact that hackers are taking advantage of vulnerable and confused Australians that are making significant changes to either their superannuation accounts or financial relief payments from the government. 

Deputy chair of the ACCC, Delia Rickard has said that scammers have a tendency to “follow the money.” 

“With the various government relief benefits that are around and ways to early access your super, scammers want to cash in on that,” she said. 

According to data from the ACCC, Australians have lost $91 million to scams in 2020, with $22 million of that chalked up to identity theft. 

In one case, the ACC noted that an individual had their information used to open a new bank account that was $62,000 in debt, with the scammer then moving to transferring funds from the individual’s home loan account. 

In another case, the ACCC saw someone lose in excess of $181,000 in a romance scam. 

Rickard stated that scammers and hackers have “multiple tactics” at their disposal, and have been extremely effective in 2020 with a range of new targets. 

“They might be pretending to be MyGov, Home Affairs or Health Department,” she said. 

“They’ll contact you either by phone, text or email, convincing you that in order to access a particular benefit or for them to help you get early access to your super, you need to share a range of personal information with them.” 

This, according to Rickard, could include “everything from super details, bank account details, drivers licence, Medicare number – all of the information that scammers can use to impersonate you.” 

The ACCC also says that those aged between 25 and 34 reported having their personal information compromised more than any other age group. 

The end goal, according to the ACCC, is to collect a range of identity information that amounts to the 100 points that is often required to make key changes to their banking or superannuation accounts, and even open up a credit card or bank account in someone else’s name. 

As a reminder, an Information Security Management System like ISO 27001 is one of the most effective ways to protect personal information and educate your team on best practices when it comes to operating online in a safe manner. 

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Identity Theft Up 55% as Scammers Capitalise on COVID-19

Ms Rickard added that the actions of these scammers are “contemptible, super is there for retirement so if someone needs to access it early, it’s because they’re doing it tough.” 

A report from the ABC quotes Jan Marshall who fell victim to a romance scam in the past, who says that the pandemic is a “perfect moment” for scammers to take advantage of people working from home and making key changes to their superannuation or banking information.” 

Ms Marshall lost $260,000 in 2021 on an online dating platform, where she transferred a scammer impersonating a genuine user the funds. “When I realised it was a scam, I found out I would never get that money back,” Marshall said. 

“In a time like this, fear is already an underlying emotion and the scammers are using that and utilising that to drive behaviour,” she said. “Scammers are very, very skilled at emotional manipulation – this is how they do their business.” 

“In this instance, they’re using fear that is already out there and the climate of fear about basic survival to drive people to do things that they might, in a more rational moment, not do,” Marshall added. 

The ACCC wrapped up its release with five tips to protect your personal information, which we’ll list below: 

  • Don’t be pressured into giving away any personal information by someone who has contacted you, no matter who they say they are.
  • Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or messages, even if it appears to have come from a legitimate source.
  • Use strong passwords for your accounts and internet network, and never share them with others.
  • Install anti-virus software on your devices and keep it up to date.
  • Limit what personal information you share about yourself online, including on social media.
Identity Theft Up 55% as Scammers Capitalise on COVID-19

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