Safeguarding Your Business and Finances: A Comprehensive Guide to Combatting Emerging Scams During the Holiday Season
As the holiday shopping season unfolds with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas approaching, the risk of cybercrime and scams heightens. Also on the horizon is Scams Awareness Week (27 November – 1 December 2023) and what better time to be reminded about potential threats and best practice security strategies. The National Retail Association urges all businesses to prioritise their cyber awareness and security, emphasising the pressing need for increased vigilance and preventive action against emerging threats. In this article, we provide crucial information, support, guidance, and actionable steps to help you navigate the digital landscape during this busy and lucrative period.
The Scope of Scams
According to the National Anti-Scam Centre, between 1 January and 30 September this year there have been:
- 2,760 reports of fake online stores, resulting in losses of more than half a million dollars.
- Over $6.2 million lost to online shopping scams.
- 81,093 reports made and $92 million stolen from impersonation scams.
- Overall, 234,672 reports with losses totalling over $397 million.
The urgency to fortify cyber defences is evident.
Fake Retail Websites
Scammers employ sophisticated techniques, creating fake retail websites with stolen logos, ‘.com.au’ domains, and Australian Business Numbers (ABN). These websites offer luxury items at unrealistically low prices, often delivering fake or no products at all. Social media platforms also host transient fake stores. To detect these scams, rely on independent reviews before making any purchases.
Recognising Scam Websites
- Check for Secure Connection: Ensure the website has ‘https’ and a padlock icon in the address bar, indicating a secure connection.
- Evaluate Urgency: Be sceptical of deals presented with a sense of urgency; scammers often create fake deadlines.
- Verify Payment Methods: Use secure payment options like PayPal or credit cards, avoiding non-secure methods like wire transfers or cryptocurrency.
- Beware of Unrealistically Low Prices: Exercise caution when encountering prices significantly lower than those on reputable websites.
- Report Suspicious Ads: Utilise Google’s ‘My Ad Centre’ to report sponsored ads that seem dubious.
- Independent Access: Always access websites independently, avoiding links in emails, SMS, or social media.
- Secure Online Shopping: Follow cybersecurity best practices outlined by Cyber.gov.au, including using secure devices, avoiding public Wi-Fi, and enabling multi-factor authentication.
- Payment Methods: Use secure payment methods like PayPal or credit cards, avoiding direct bank deposits or digital currencies. Consider a dedicated credit card with a low limit for online transactions.
Top Tips for Avoiding Scams
- STOP: Don’t succumb to time-limited deals. Take time to evaluate the legitimacy of the offer.
- THINK: Question the authenticity of websites or deals. Seek independent reviews and verify deals directly with the retailer.
- PROTECT: Act promptly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank, report to IDCARE, and inform Scamwatch.
- Never click on a suspicious link.
- Beware of phishing emails.
- Make sure online sites are secure.
- Avoid shopping on public Wi-Fi.
- Use a credit card or shop through a known Payment platform.
- Use complex passwords for online retailers.
How They Work
Impersonation scams exploit trust to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information or making uncharacteristic decisions. Scammers imitate trusted entities like government agencies, banks, or even friends and family. These scams often incite emotional responses and have become harder to detect due to technological advancements.
Possible Scam Warning Signs:
- Clicking on a link that requests personal information.
- Urgent requests for quick action involving personal details or money.
- Organisations claiming unauthorised transactions or requesting payment confirmation.
- Businesses asking for the use of a different bank account than usual.
- Contact from someone posing as government, regulator, or law enforcement, making threats or demanding payment.
- Requests to transfer money for alleged safety or further investigation.
Protecting Yourself from Impersonation Scams
- Verify message authenticity by contacting the person or organisation directly using official contact details.
- Cut off communication with anyone attempting to threaten or intimidate you.
- Avoid opening or downloading attachments or apps to prevent potential malware installation.
- Be cautious of slight variations in Caller or Sender IDs.
- When receiving a new phone number from someone you know, verify their identity through a call or specific questions only they would know.
- Refrain from clicking on links in text messages or emails.
- Explore steps to enhance email security on eSafety, Australia’s independent online safety regulator.
- Learn more about fostering safer and more positive online experiences on eSafety.
AI in Scams: A Growing Threat
With the increasing use of generative AI, scammers are becoming more adept at creating convincing scams, making detection challenging. Users are encouraged to exercise caution, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as scammers leverage influential personalities and deepfake technology to enhance the authenticity of their schemes.
What to Do If You Get Scammed
- Act Fast to Prevent Further Losses:
- Contact your bank or card provider immediately to report the scam and ask them to stop any transactions.
- If uncertain about a potential scam, cease sending money; scammers often persist until you stop.
- Get Help to Recover:
- Reach out to IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service, for free assistance in creating a recovery plan.
- Lodge a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority if dissatisfied with your bank’s response.
- Warn Others and Report the Scam:
- Report the scam to Scamwatch and make an official report to the police online.
- Share your experience to warn others and contribute to scam prevention efforts.
- Watch Out for Follow-Up Scams:
- Be vigilant for follow-up scams, as scammers may attempt to exploit the situation again.
- Get Support in the Aftermath:
- If the scam causes financial distress, consult a financial counsellor for free and confidential assistance.
- Reach out to Lifeline or Beyond Blue for emotional support and guidance.
Stay Informed and Stay Safe
As the holiday season brings both joy and increased online activity, it is imperative to remain vigilant against emerging scams. By adopting the recommended precautions, staying informed about the latest scam tactics, businesses and individuals can navigate the digital landscape securely. In the event of a scam, swift action, reporting, and seeking support will mitigate damages and contribute to collective efforts against cybercrime.
Scam Awareness Week Campaign Resources: Here