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Scams and cybercrime

Protect Yourself; Know the Scam

Scams themselves are not new (think Nigerian prince), but the tactics and methods being used to carry out scams are continually evolving. Traditionally scams have been conducted via phone and mail, and while these are still prevalent, our reliance and use of new  technologies, such as the internet and email,  also presents scammers with additional opportunities to reach potential victims and obtain your personal information.

By being smarter with your data, verifying the source or knowing how to spot scams you can help protect yourself from losing your identity, your reputation or your life savings.

Scams could impact you

The evidence

The ACCC report that in 2018 over 378,000 reports of scams, resulting in almost half a billion dollars lost by everyday citizens, was recorded. This is an increase of 44% from 2017.

The top scams continue to be:

  1. Investment scams.
  2. Dating and romance scams.
  3. Business, investment and employment scams.
  4. Upfront payments and advanced fee frauds.

Research shows people from all walks of life and age groups can be targeted and vulnerable to fraud. For example remote access scams have a impacted a larger percent of older Australians, where as younger Australians are more affected by online shopping scams.

In 2018 just over 53% of these contacts were made by email, social media, mobile apps or the internet, while nearly 47%  of approaches were still made by phone calls.

Know the Scam

What's new?

Latest investment scam (added May 2019)

Dave was contacted advising him of an amazing opportunity to invest in the gold trade. The caller went in to great detail, showing what is happening in the market currently and referred to legitimate websites as reference. Dave was impressed with what he was told and had done some online checks himself to see if they were the real deal; he couldn’t find anything untoward so decided to invest. He initially seemed to make a profit so went on to invest more than $37, 000AUD.

Eventually Dave was contacted by his bank in February, 2019 advising him he was being scammed and to cease communicating with the investment company he had been dealing with. The bank attempted to retrieve the funds for Dave, but was unsuccessful.

Latest arrest scam (added May 2019)

In April 2019 Rose from Morphett Vale received a phone call from an unknown number that showed an area code outside of South Australia. When Rose answered the phone a male informed her that he was a federal agent from the ATO and that she owed $1,000. The ‘agent’ told Rose she had less than an hour to clear this debt otherwise police would arrest her and that he had a warrant ready to go. He then told her to call her local station to confirm this information. The caller supplied Rose with the number for her local station (which was correct) after asking her what her local station was.

Whilst Rose was on the phone, she missed a call from a number that appeared to be from her local station - it showed the number and suburb where the station was located. She called the number back by pressing the call back button. Rose then listened to the automatic message that her local station plays before being put through to an officer. But Rose was not calling her local station, and it was not a member of South Australia Police that she was talking to. It was the scammer posing as a federal agent who had spoofed the caller ID on Rose’s phone. Even though it looked like she was calling the police, she had called the scammer back at an unknown location.

Rose followed the instructions she was given to pay the debt, attending a local store that sold gift cards, purchasing the amount she ‘owed’ and sending the details through a separate phone app that she was told to download. Rose lost $1000.

Read media release

SA Police and Crime Stoppers have released this video on one of the latest scams circulating in South Australia.


Real life local stories in South Australia

The following are reports recently received by South Australia Police. While some of the names and suburbs have been altered for privacy reasons, the modus operandi of the scam is real.  Scammers regularly change their methods and messages so it is important to keep up to date with local scams.

Threat of arrest scams

Incident one

Listen to the Arrest Scam here

In February 2019, Debra from Grange received a phone call from someone alleging to work for a government agency. The caller advised Debra that she had in excess of $5000 worth of outstanding fines, and that if she didn’t pay it back, she would be arrested. Debra was convinced that the fines and threat were real, because upon providing the caller with the details of her local police station, she received a phone call from the Henley Beach Police Station phone number. Debra bought over $2000 worth of gift cards and provided the caller with the card numbers as she was told to. Debra then bought some more gift cards, but a staff member at the shop she was in told her she might be getting scammed. This staff member saved Debra from losing another $2000 to the scammer.

Incident two

Tom received a phone call from someone who identified themselves as working for a government agency. The caller advised Tom that he had an unpaid tax debt and that if he failed to pay it immediately, he would be arrested. Tom queried the caller, stating that he used Peppers Accounting to lodge his tax returns. The caller asked for the phone number of the accounting firm which Tom provided. Tom was convinced that his debt was legitimate, as shortly after, he received a phone call from the Peppers Accounting phone number. Tom followed the caller’s directions, purchasing a large sum of gift cards and passing the card numbers onto the caller. It turns out that the phone calls were in fact from scammers and not the agencies they stated. The scammers used a tactic called ‘phone spoofing’ which is where they change the incoming caller ID to appear as though it was coming from the accounting firm. Tom was not able to recover the money he spent on gift cards.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

Dating and romance scams

Karen lives in Adelaide. Over two years ago she started a relationship with a person living overseas. Karen put $50,000 into his bank account which she thought was going towards his education. When Karen travelled overseas to meet her online partner in person he didn’t turn up. She has ceased all contact with him but she has been left emotionally broken and $50,000 poorer.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au.

Computer hacking / remote access scams

Incident one

Charles from Mount Barker answered a call on his mobile phone from a person claiming to be a telco technician. The alleged technician told Charlie that he had a virus on his computer and to fix the issue; he needed to unlock the computer and follow a link provided by the technician. Charlie, concerned that he had a virus, followed the instructions allowing the technician access to his computer. Charlie has since realised that he has had nearly $10,000 withdrawn from is personal bank account. The caller turned out to be a scammer and not a representative of any telco.

Incident two

Rosemary received a phone call from someone identifying themselves as an employee of a telco provider. They asked if she had been experiencing issues with her internet, which she had, and stated that if she downloaded software they would be able to take a look at it for her. Rosemary followed the caller’s instructions, which gave them remote access to her computer. The caller informed Rosemary they had located hackers in her network and needed her assistance in catching them. They transferred money into her account and requested that she go to her bank, withdraw the money and then deposit it at a non-bank remitter to a specified overseas account. Rosemary followed the caller’s instructions. It wasn’t until some days later that Rosemary realised the money that had been transferred into her account was not from the telco provider, rather from another of her own accounts, and was in fact her own money.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

Unexpected prize scam

Sally was on holiday when she received a message via social media from a ‘friend’ telling her that she had won money. Sally was given a phone number to contact to find out how to claim her winnings. When she contacted the number, the ‘agent’ asked for some information including her personal details and various forms of ID, which she provided. Sally also bought $400 worth of gift cards at the request of the agent, and provided them with the card numbers. It was when the ‘agent’ started asking for more gift cards, that Sally realised she was being scammed by someone using her friend’s social media account.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

Sextortion

Incident one

Barry started speaking with a person on a dating website who stated they were an adult entertainment model. As the conversation progressed, the model got Barry to speak to her ‘manager’ requesting a booking fee to meet up with the model, but assured Barry that he would get the money back when he met the model in person. Barry transferred the money, in addition to another $200 to book a hotel room. The manager stated they never received the funds, and requested Barry transfer more, to which he refused. Barry kept chatting with the model, which lead to him sending intimate photographs of himself. On doing so, he was threatened to pay money to the scammers or they would release his photos to his family members and friends on social media. Barry did not pay the scammers the money and reported the matter to police.

Incident two

Craig received a friend request from an unknown person on social media. He accepted the request and exchanged messages with his new friend. The following day, this evolved into engaging in intimate acts. Shortly after, Craig was contacted by scammers, with attachments containing video footage and photographs of him engaging in acts from the day before. He was threatened to pay $2000 or the footage would be released to all of his social media friends.

Incident three

Bruce from Norwood received an email from an unknown person, stating that he had been filmed through his webcam whilst visiting an adult site. The email contained an old password of Bruce’s, which the scammer offered up as proof  they had gained remote access to his computer. The scammers threatened the footage would be release to family and friends if he failed to pay a sum of money. Bruce did not pay the money. No such footage existed, and the scammers had not gained access to Bruce’s computer. The scammers supplied an old password used by Bruce, which had been compromised in a data breach some years earlier.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

Investment / jobs scams

Stephanie applied for a job advertised online as a virtual administrative assistant. She was advised that she was successful in winning the position and was provided with a Skype ID and a Bitcoin Wallet. Stephanie was asked to provide her personal bank account details, which she did. She was instructed that funds for the business would be deposited into her personal bank account, and her role was to transfer that money into the Bitcoin Wallet. Stephanie followed these instructions, believing it was her job to do so, but was never remunerated for her employment as promised. When she contacted the company to query it, she was advised she had been involved in money laundering and was threatened to keep doing what she had been doing, or they would expose what she had done to Australian authorities. Stephanie alerted police to the scam and was not prosecuted.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

Business / industry email compromise scams

RTD Paving sent out invoices to various customers requesting payment. They received notification that one of the invoices had been paid, but when they checked the business’ bank account, they found the payment did not appear on their statement. They contacted the customer to query the payment, to which the customer stated they had followed the email’s directions attached to the invoice. The email attached to the invoice directed the customer to pay the funds into the business’ ‘new account’. RTD Paving advised the customer they did not have a new account, and had not sent the described email. RTP Paving’s email exchange had been compromised, allowing scammers to intercept the email, modify the banking details that the customer received and direct them to pay the invoice into the scammers account instead.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

Business / industry ransomware scam

Teddies4Kids is a large not-for-profit organisation. Last month, scammers were able to gain access to their servers by using software that tried various combinations of usernames and passwords, until a combination was successful. Once in, ransomware was installed, locking the organisation out from accessing all of their information and data across multiple States/Territories. Teddies4Kids were ordered to pay a ransom by the scammers to have their data decrypted, to which they refused to pay. The organisation lost a significant amount of its data as a result, which affected day to day operations.

To make a report visit cyber.gov.au

Find out more about how this scam works from scamwatch.gov.au

National scams and cybercrime threats

Get the latest Australia-wide information from:

Protect Yourself

General advice from SA Police

Anyone can be targeted by scammers – so always be on the look out.

Scammers can be very convincing, so if something does not feel right, do not be pressured into making a decision on the spot. They will often use the tactic of short timeframes to prevent potential victims from taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.

Go to a source of truth – If you are not sure whether the person you are speaking to is who they say they are, hang up the phone and call back the agency using a phone number you know to be true i.e. from the phonebook.

Before you transfer money or share your bank details, discuss it with someone you trust or check cyber.gov.au to see if you are involved in a scam.

Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Secure your online devices and be safe

Secure your online devices such as your phone, tablet, computer and your information by following the handy tips on the staysmartonline website.

There are simple steps you can take as an individual, family and business to avoid becoming the next victim of an online scam.

Report it and get help

If you think you may have been a victim of an incident, report it immediately by visiting cyber.gov.au/report

You should also consider contacting your bank if you have shared your information or someone has accessed your account without permission.

Find out how to recover when things go wrong on the staysmartonline website.

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Related information

cyber.gov.au – Australian Cyber Security Centre - provides advice to individuals, small to medium business, big business and critical infrastructure operators on how to stay safe online and links to relevant reporting portals.

acorn.gov.au – Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network - ACORN is a national online system that provides advice to help people recognise and avoid common types of cybercrime. ACORN is a national referral and reporting agency which local police then utilise.

scamwatch.gov.au - This site has information about current trends, comparative statistics and useful articles and other advice about scams affecting everyday Australians.