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Staying Aware of Financial Scams in Australia

As listeners of The Australian Finance Podcast will know, Owen and I talk a lot about building a solid financial future for you and your family, however, we don’t often discuss how easily your plans can come undone when falling victim to financial frauds and scams.

There’s plenty to unpack here, so I got in touch with Joel Camissar, the Regional Director of McAfee MVISION Cloud (APAC) a global computer security software company, to find out some of the common financial scams occurring in Australia at the moment and how to protect ourselves from them. 

What are the major financial scams occurring in Australia?

In recent times, Australia has seen an increase in phishing scams, online shopping and retail scams, and even superannuation scams. However, when we examine the finance sector, it’s at risk of being infiltrated by cybercriminals using COVID-19-themed ransomware, scam URLs and spam designed to lure remote workers into mishandling information and clicking on a malicious link, downloading a file, or viewing a PDF. 

For those in the finance sector, clicking an unverified linked or opening a malicious attachment can invite malware and breach internal corporate systems—which is incredibly concerning for the finance sector which deals with highly sensitive data and financials.

Another threat, known as ‘cryptojacking’—the act of tricking victims into loading cryptocurrency mining software onto their computers—has seen exponential growth. McAfee found that new coinmining malware increased by 26 percent, and total coinmining malware samples increased nearly 97 percent over the past four quarters. This finance-based attack hi-jacks a user’s computer processing power to help solve complex calculations, assisting in the mining of cryptocurrencies, which can impact the efficiency of a computer or network. 

What are some of the emerging trends you’re seeing, that Aussies should be aware of?

Cybercriminals are leveraging the world’s desire for more, critical information on COVID-19 as an entry point into systems across the globe—and this is of great concern to all industries, including the finance sector.

McAfee’s latest Quarterly Threats Report found that attacks targeting the financial sector has increased by a concerning 32 percent, and more specifically, McAfee revealed a 571 percent increase in cloud-based attacks between January and April 2020 alone within the financial services sector. This indicates the most prominent threats are in the cloud, which is largely attributed to the collective shift to working from home arrangements.

Aussies should be hyper alert about the links they click on – for both personal and professional use – and be wary about what applications they’re using and which sites are visited, to avoid clicking on anything malicious.

What is the financial impact of scams on Australians?

A recent McAfee report revealed the average cost of cybersecurity incidents to be $332,044, according to the 46 percent of Australian survey respondents who could place a cost on cybersecurity incidents in the past 12 months.

Moreover, Australians lost over $634 million to scams in 2019, according to the latest figures in the ACCC’s Targeting Scams report released earlier this year. Interestingly, business email compromise scams accounted for the highest losses in 2019, with the Australian business community (and some individuals) losing $132 million. This was closely followed by investment scams amounting to $126 million, and dating and romance scams at $83 million.

How can Aussies prepare for and protect themselves from financial scams?

Here are a few tips for how Aussies can stay protected from financial scams:

  • Run anti-virus tools or use a comprehensive security solution on all devices, including mobile phones, so that you’re well protected from sites that especially deal with a financial service or handle personal information.
  • Keep a close eye on your financials, accounts, and reports to ensure you’re being vigilant and immediately aware of any suspicious behaviour.
  • Bulletproof your passwords. Use strong, unique, and impersonal passwords for each one of your accounts. These too can be compromised, and if you use the same password for more sensitive accounts, they are also at risk.
  • Be careful how and where you’re sharing your personal or financial data if you’re requested this information on email, over text or via a call to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam.
  • Beware of messages from unknown users. If you receive a text, email, social media message, or phone call from an unknown user regarding the pandemic, it’s best to proceed with caution and avoid interacting with the message altogether.
  • Increase your cybersecurity awareness and speak to your workplace about getting trained up on how to be cyber safe while working remotely and dealing with cloud-based applications.

Joel’s answers are a great reminder to make sure you secure your financial future, by keeping your identity, brokerage and banks accounts safe!

Learn More About Scams in Australia

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