Online services have become an essential tool to help us manage our everyday lives.

They are incredibly efficient, and useful. However, scams - including those that use common brand names or logos to appear legitimate - are common.

That’s why here at Central West Credit Union, we encourage businesses and individuals to arm themselves with the knowledge they need to protect themselves.

It’s about knowing what to look out for - and acting on your instinct if something doesn’t seem right.

Protecting yourself from Scams

We all know about the sub par scams - the obvious ones that are easy to spot. They are in our junk mail inbox, riddled with spelling mistakes. They are sometimes even on the news!

But much of the time, scams succeed because they look like the real thing. The people creating these are getting smarter and also taking advantage of new technology, to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal details.

As some basic ways to keep your information secure, we advise our members to:

  • keep Visacard details secure and private
  • use a separate account for online purchases
  • watch out for product trials

Head to the Scamwatch website for detailed information on the steps you can take to protect yourself - and your information.

In the meantime - here are some of the scams to look out for.

Email Hacking - Business email or invoice compromise

This is the type of scam that occurs when an outside vendor or partner’s email is hacked.

For example - you receive an email from a supplier, advising of a chance in bank details. These can appear as a perfect copy of a real version of invoices, promoting you to make a payment to these new accounts.

This could lead you to send a payment which is never received by the supplier - and your money is gone.

Scammers often pose as one of your regular suppliers and tell you that their banking details have changed. They may tell you they have recently changed banks, and may use stolen letterhead and branding or even hacked emails to convince you they are legitimate.

Here are some tips from Scamwatch about how to protect yourself from these scams.

Avoid this type of scam

Contact the supplier directly using a second, reliable mode of communication such as a known phone number to verify any request to change bank details.

Consider a multi-person approval process for transactions over a certain dollar threshold with processes in place to ensure the business billing you is the one you normally deal with.

Prevent your IT systems from being compromised. Keep your IT security up-to-date by regularly patching your systems and running antivirus software, and have a good firewall to protect your data.

False claims of a debt

This type of scam involves someone ringing and pretending they are owed money.

For a business, it may come in the form of false billing, asking you to pay fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies that you did not order.

Or the scammer might phone you out of the blue to confirm details of an advertisement booking or insist you've ordered certain goods or services.

These might look like an invoice or phone call from a business directory or other publication you’ve never heard of, ‘confirming’ your entry or advertisement. You may even recognise the listing as one you put in a different publication.

Or, you may receive a letter or an invoice requesting payment for a domain registration or renewal. The renewal fee may be much higher than usual or be registered with a different company. The domain name may be very similar to your actual domain name with a different ending.

It might also look like an invoice for goods or services you did not order or a call from somebody claiming to be your regular supplier, offering goods that you have ordered before.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself, from Scamwatch.

Avoid this type of scam

These scams take advantage of the fact the person handling the administrative duties for the business may not know whether any advertising or promotional activities have actually been requested.

Advise your staff to always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice, and always read the fine print carefully.

Try to limit the number of people in your business who are authorised to make orders or pay invoices. Make sure the business billing you is the one you normally deal with.

If you notice a supplier’s usual bank account details have changed, call them to confirm.

Romance scams

These are particularly tricky - and particularly upsetting.

Because they take advantage of people’s emotions and leave already vulnerable people feeling exposed and exploited.

These scammers generally meet people on dating apps and then direct the conversation to an encrypted chat site. After a few weeks of developing a relationship, the scammer will begin asking about the victim’s finances and encourage them to participate in what is often touted as an ‘investment opportunity.’

Another technique is to play on emotional triggers, by claiming to be sick or in distress - to get you to provide money, to help them.

Scammers often create fake online profiles designed to lure people in. They typically use a fictional name, or falsely take on the identities of real, trusted people such as military personnel, aid workers or professionals working abroad.

Here are some tips from Scamwatch, about how to protect yourself.

Avoid this type of scam

Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.

Always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs listed above appear. Try to remove the emotion from your decision making no matter how caring or persistent the ‘prospective partner’ is.

Do an image search of your admirer to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google or TinEye.

Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to Skype each other.

Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.

If you agree to meet a prospective partner in person, tell family and friends where you are going. Scamwatch strongly recommends you do not travel overseas to meet someone you have never met before. Consider carefully the advice on before making any plans.

Be wary of requests for money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

Do not agree to transfer money for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

More Information

We have written several articles about scams - and how to be safe online.

Read them below - and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, or would like to see any further articles about a particular topic.