As 10 million Optus customers remain on high alert for fraudulent activity on their financial accounts after the recent cyber-attack, other financial scams are escalating.
After the September cyber-attack the telco’s customers were warned to be on the alert for out of the blue phone calls or messages asking for personal or financial information.
For some customers the risk of identity theft was particularly high, with documents such as their driver’s licence, Medicare or passport numbers amongst the personal information released.
While the scale of the Optus attack was large, it’s not the only way scammers are trying to get their hands on your money or personal information.
One of the fastest growing trends is the ‘Hi Mum’ or family impersonation scam, according to Scamwatch.
In the first seven months of the year, 1150 people reported losses of $2.6 million after falling victim to the scam. The bulk of the losses occurred in June and July.
Victims were often contacted via Whatsapp by a scammer posing as a family member or friend. They would present a sob story about having lost or damaged their phone to explain why they were contacting them from a different number. Sometimes they even knew the name of the person they were contacting.
Then they would either ask for personal information such as photos for their social media profile or money to help them pay a bill, a contractor, or buy a new phone. The request for money was justified by not being able to access their online banking temporarily.
If you think you may be on the receiving end of such an approach from a scammer what can you do to protect your personal information and your finances?
- Call the usual number of the friend or family member claiming to be contacting you. If they respond you’ll know the person behind the Whatsapp message is a scammer.
- If you can’t get through on their usual number try another way of getting in contact such as an email address.
- If you suspect you’re speaking to a scammer try asking them a personal question that only the actual friend or family member would be able to answer.
If you think you’re being targeted by a scammer contact your bank as soon as possible. Your bank may be able to trace any money you’ve sent, block the scammer’s account, or help prevent others from falling into a similar trap.
In the case of the Optus cyber-attack Scamwatch is advising affected customers to take several precautionary steps.
- Secure your devices and monitor them for any unusual activity.
- Change online account passwords and enable multi-factor authentication for your bank accounts.
- Check your accounts for any unusual activity such as items you haven’t purchased;
- Place limits on your accounts or contact your bank and ask how you can secure your money;
- If you suspect fraud contact your bank immediately. You can also request a ban on your credit report.