Tips and advice to keep online scammers at bay

IT'S a sickening feeling to realise someone has hacked your emails and had unlimited access to your personal details.

The reality is there are many different ways a stranger can attempt to steal your information. From embedding viruses, phone and email phishing to fake online dating profiles, the opportunities for a fraudster are endless.

Before you close down all your online accounts and throw your smart phone in the bin, there are ways to protect yourself.

The best advice from experts is to be vigilant - make sure your accounts are secure, trust your gut feeling that something isn't right, and request a yearly credit report.

Regularly changing passwords is the best way to protect your accounts, and don't use the same password for all your accounts.

Install internet protection and firewalls on your devices to pick up suspicious activity and keep programs up-to-date.

Currently, the most common scam arises from a phone call, with someone trying to solicit information by pretending to be from a reputable organisation like a bank or the Australian Tax Office.

If you do fall victim to a scam, there are people who can help.

Organisations such as Scam Watch, iDcare and Australian Cyberlink Online Reporting Network all offer advice on what to do if you are targeted, and how to protect yourself. ACORN takes reports on all kinds of online crime including identity theft, cyber bullying and questionable content.

One tip they offer is to be aware of your credit history. Australians are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies in Australia. You can apply to them for a copy of your report to help identify if your personal information has been used to open fraudulent accounts. The fraudulent accounts can include phone accounts, credit cards or loans.

This fraudulent activity can be reported both to the company that was defrauded and to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.

Helpful websites include: is a website run by the ACCC to help recognise, avoid and report scams, a government initiative to allow the secure report of cybercrime. ACORN reports to federal, state, local and international law enforcers to combat the growing online fraud threat, a free, government-funded service to help you work out how to respond to a suspected incident.

Scam advice

  • If you are unsure how your accounts were compromised, change your passwords on a device you know is secure.
  • Apple are good at providing updates to prevent hacking, but if you are worried, they can check your device and wipe anything that shouldn't be there.
  • Ask your bank what measures you can take to make sure your accounts are more secure.
  • If you send documents via email, delete any copies from your sent box and from your computer.
  • Email providers will have information on their sites on how to secure your account and how to check for access by unauthorised users.
  • Often with email accounts and social media accounts you can add two-step verification that will alert you to someone trying to access you account.

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