Risks of fraud are on the rise as more people try to save money by shopping online.
Whether it is the latest fashion, presents for loved ones or the increasing number of online sales that draws you in, the web has it all.
In fact, our presence online is among the strongest in the world, with research from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) showing nearly three-quarters of all Australian adults think the internet improves our lives.
ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said for many of us, “going online is about getting things done no matter where you are.”
“Being able to access information, shop, bank, and stay in touch with friends at any time is becoming easier and easier to do.
“What’s more, most Australians see themselves as pretty savvy in using the internet, with almost two-thirds confident they have the skills necessary to do everything they want to do online,” Chapman said.
Online Shopping And Security Threats
Among the data from ACMA is information that shows just how popular online shopping is, with 7.8 million Australians engaging in shopping-related activities online in June 2012.
That is an increase of 27% on results from a year earlier, and with more and more online-based retailers and sales coming up all the time, the trend towards online shopping is set to continue.
Unfortunately, shopping online also increases the risk of fraud in a number of ways.
While most of us are aware of how to protect credit card details and other personal information, online crime has persisted.
According to ACMA, between May 2011 and May 2012 there were 1.2 million of us that experienced some form of online credit card fraud.
On top of that result, 3.2 million internet users in Australia had their computers infected with a malware virus and 625,000 people responded to an unsolicited or scam email and provided either personal information or money.
The fact is that even though there is a wide range of fraud protection resources available for us to use, scammers adapt almost as quickly as we become savvy to new threats.
Security company McAfee said these risks show no sign of slowing down, especially now that more devices (such as tablets and smartphones) are going online.
The senior vice president of McAfee Labs in California, Vincent Weafer, said cybercrime is continually gaining momentum.
“The fact is that we continue to see increased sophistication of attacks. Cybercrime, hacktivism, and cyberwarfare are in a continual state of evolution,” he said.
“Everyone from governments to large enterprises, small business and home users are facing a wider range of digital threats from these forces, as they gain more actionable intelligence on their victims, and leverage the newest attack platforms and exploits tools to launch their campaigns.”
Staying Safe Online
While Weafer advises everyone to continue to be aware of online risks and stay up-to-date with ways to prevent and combat new threats, it is often hard to know where to start.
But a rise in software threats from viruses and malware that can affect everything from your PC to your iPhone suggests security programs are a good foundation for your protection.
Making sure the software and devices you use are not compromised means that you can focus more on other types of threats, like fake websites or email scams that are on the rise.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP), for example, recently found one scam that involved a pop-up window that appropriated the AFP logo to get information from victims.
The scammers claimed a victim’s computer had been compromised and requested a “fee” to unlock the computer.
As AFP Manager, Cybercrime Operations, Commander Glen McEwen said, this scam shows just how wary we need to be when going online.
“Unfortunately members of the public are still being affected by this scam. The Australian community is reminded that the AFP does not solicit funds and this message is not associated with the AFP in any way,” he said.
“I strongly advise personal computer users to take steps to protect themselves against scams.”
But the AFP is not the only organisation that is used by fraudsters to try and get personal information.
There have also been two recent scams claiming to be from the Australian Bankers Association – one by phone and one by email – that promised a bank fee refund for people who participated in a survey.
The ABA’s Chief Executive, Steven Münchenberg said this trend was concerning and encouraged people to report any suspicious activity.
“The ABA is very concerned about any attempts by criminals to defraud bank customers. If anyone has received a call or e-mail such as this, we urge customers to hang up or delete the e-mail. Do not provide any bank details over the phone, Internet or through e-mails,” he said.
“Talk to your bank immediately if you have provided any information to the criminals, so staff can take immediate action to monitor and protect your account.”
The same goes for emails claiming to be from your bank – most banks will rarely email you and outline any current threats that they are aware of, but a good rule of thumb is to only provide information when you are the one who has contacted a bank or other authoritative company.
It is easy to get caught up in thinking certain websites, logos or company information is legitimate, but the fact is that online threats can come in any shape or form.
By being aware of these risks, keeping security up-to-date and checking your bank statements regularly, you should be able to get the most out of online bargains without losing your protection in the process.