Cyber crime surge: how to protect yourself from COVID-19 scams

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Criminals are using the coronavirus pandemic as a means to covertly commit cyber attacks. Here’s how to stay safe.

Coronavirus is not just a threat to our health. Cyber crime is also on the rise with criminals using the pandemic as a means to stealthily extract money from unwitting individuals and businesses.

Many people, confined to their homes during lockdown, have been under high levels of stress, while spending more time online.

A top United Nations official recently warned that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sending of malicious emails had risen by 600%, including attacks against health care organisations and medical research facilities.

Fake COVID-19 websites have been set up to raise ‘donations’ or promise to provide health information, but instead of doing so, it downloads onto the user’s computer malicious software. Brazen cyber criminals even call people while impersonating officials such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or other government departments to demand payment.

Older Australians are a key target, with approximately 70% of Australians using the internet multiple times a day, according to a national survey by the Government’s Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

While highly aware of the importance of internet security and privacy, its research found that 40% of the eight million Australians aged over 50 either had contact details stolen, experienced a virus attack, or had been the victim of a scam.

How you can protect yourself from online scams

Digital technology has become an essential part of everyday life – all it takes is implementing some basic security tips to maximise your online safety and enjoyment.

Password protection

Never use the same password across different sites or share passwords with other people. If a site is hacked, your password could be used to gain broader access to other sites. Software such as LastPass or 1Password can store and encrypt all your passwords so you don’t have to remember them. It’s also worth switching on two-factor authentication if offered. This provides another layer of security, such as a text sent to your phone with a unique code.

Keep your computer and anti-virus software up-to-date

The nature of cyber crime is always changing, making it crucial to keep your computer’s operating system and anti-virus software updated. This is to ensure that your computer’s security is not compromised due to outdated software, as new viruses and malicious softwares are constantly emerging.

Be wary of fake emails

So-called ‘phishing’ scams are one of the most popular online scams. These emails pretend to be from a friend, professional or institution such as a bank, and may ask you to confirm personal or financial details or to click on a malicious link. Most of the time, real organisations will never ask for personal details over email. Also look out for small inconsistencies in phishing emails such as spelling errors and suspicious email addresses which do not appear to be from the organisation. Always scan any email attachments with anti-virus software before opening them.

There’s no such thing as free money

A classic email scam is to offer some form of free money – such as lost super, an inheritance, or a lottery win. The catch is you’ll be asked to pay something upfront, send personal details, or click on a malicious link that will allow cyber criminals to do their work.

Remember if it’s too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

Online safety is critical to building one’s confidence required to make the most of digital technology. Taking the time to learn more can help improve the quality of one’s day-to-day digital experience while remaining secure from cyber crime.

eSafety Commissioner launches free cybersecurity courses for senior Australians

The Federal Government’s eSafety Commissioner has launched a series of free daytime webinars to help senior Australians stay safe online.

The ‘Be Connected’ courses will take place throughout 2020 and will help seniors build basic skills required for video chats, telehealth, online shopping and banking while avoiding common online risks.

“With the Federal Government urging people aged over 70 to stay at home and limit face-to-face contact, the internet can be a lifeline,” Senator Richard Colbeck said. “But many Australians in this age group are not always confident using digital technology.”
The webinars form part of the Government’s $47 million Digital Literacy for Older Australians initiative that was launched in 2017.

 

 

This information is current as at September 2020. This article is intended to provide general information only and has been prepared without taking into account any particular person’s objectives, financial situation or needs (‘circumstances’). Before acting on such information, you should consider its appropriateness, taking into account your circumstances and obtain your own independent financial, legal or tax advice. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before making any decision about a product. While all care has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and reliable, to the maximum extent the law permits, ClearView and its related bodies corporate, or each of their directors, officers, employees, contractors or agents, will not assume liability to any person for any error or omission in this material however caused, nor be responsible for any loss or damage suffered, sustained or incurred by any person who either does, or omits to do, anything in reliance on the information contained herein provided by the index may be used to extend return history. To the extent the index providers have included fees and expenses in their returns, this information will be reflected in the hypothetical performance.

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