By Mark A Gregory, RMIT University
Crimes of confidence, known as scams, are on the rise. You probably know the basics. The way the most common type of scam works involves you being presented with an offer, product or service for which you pay and then don’t receive anything.
Scams have always been big business and perpetrators have adapted quickly to new technology. Telephone, mail and now the internet have provided an ever-growing platform for large-scale, and coordinated, scam attacks.
Why should we be worried? What’s the real scale of the problem?
Well, the Director General of Britain’s MI5, Jonathan Evans last week warned that:
Vulnerabilities in the internet are being exploited aggressively not just by criminals but also by states,” and “the extent of what is going on is astonishing – with industrial-scale processes involving many thousands of people lying behind both State sponsored cyber espionage and organised cyber crime.
Multinationals offering services online, with customer’s banking details logged on their servers, continue to get hacked at an ever increasing pace, and some more than once.
Many people will know the Apple iTunes and app store accounts were hacked recently. Such hacks go on all the time, but without the attendant publicity generated by a story involving a company of Apple’s stature.
According to Jody Westby, CEO of security firm Global Cyber Risk and adjunct distinguished follow at Carnegie Mellon:
It’s no wonder there are so many breaches. Privacy, security and cybercrime are three legs of the same stool.
The responsibility for the rise in organised crime does not solely lie with corporations and the government. Everyone needs to take the time necessary to become aware of how organised criminals are going to try to effect a scam.
SCAMwatch provides information to consumers and small business about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.
What becomes immediately apparent at SCAMwatch is the large number of active scams found today. Scams are designed to target every aspect of our daily lives and focus on finding some weakness, need or desire that can be taken advantage of.
By definition, scammers create scams to look genuine. By convincing you that the scam is real you become more likely to carry out the actions necessary for the scam to succeed.
SCAMwatch is an important education tool that provides examples of scams, descriptions of how the scammers will try to entice you and recent scam victim stories that are provided to encourage Australians to learn from their experiences.
There have already been criticisms of the service. If you use the SCAMwatch scam report form the information you provide is sent to the ACCC and not to the Australian federal or state police. A better solution – many argue, and I tend to agree – would be for the scam report to be sent to all of the appropriate Australian authorities.
A list of other organisations that you should contact to report a scam can be found here.
But, for any of its faults, SCAMwatch is an impressive educational tool that includes simple and easy-to-understand descriptions of common scams with excellent advice on how we can better protect ourselves, including:
SCAMwatch email alerts. These provide warnings when a sharp increase in the execution of a particular scam is identified. Companies that do not have a person responsible for security and privacy should nominate someone to receive the SCAMwatch email alerts.
The little black book of scams is excellent reading. Ask for the printer version to be sent to you or download the PDF version to read on your computer, Kindle or iPad.
See-a-scam samples provide details on a range of real scams and examples of how the scammers will try to trick you.
The scam awareness videos are a light-hearted series of videos that take you through various scams.
So that we get a reality check about the serious nature of the material presented on SCAMwatch, the site includes recent scam victim stories.
Personally, I don’t need to see the stories on SCAMwatch to know how heart-rendering the after-effects of being scammed can be. Members of my family, as with many other families, have been scammed and lost considerable sums of money.
The collective disgust of society towards scammers will not stop them because today scammers often hide, operate and disappear again exclusively in cyberspace. Trying to slam a door in their face just won’t work.
Take the time, visit SCAMwatch, learn and empower yourself and your organisation in the fight against scams.
Mark A Gregory does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.