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Businesses urged to protect themselves against scams

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Sam Nichols 7 minute read

A collection of private, community and government bodies has come together to raise awareness about scams and provide tips on scam prevention.

Over 350 government, private and community organisations – including the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) – have come together to support scam awareness and education, joining this year’s Scam Awareness Week initiative. 

Organised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch, this year’s event – which launched on 8 November and will run until 12 November – aims to highlight the prevalence and seriousness of scam and cyber-criminal activity. 

Speaking of the initiative, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said: “The more we talk about scams, the more awareness we have, and the harder it is for scammers to steal our money or personal information.

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“There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about being scammed, because it can happen to anyone, but sharing your experiences with others can help disrupt and prevent scams.”

According to the ACCC, as of 17 October, $236 million had been lost to scams during this calendar year. 

Over this same period, 242,000 reports had also been made. 

Recent data published by initiative member COBA notes that, according to an analysis of Essential Research poll with 1,094 participants, eight in 10 people have been approached by a cyber-criminal within the past two years. A quarter of those said they had followed the requests made of them. 

Research published by Bankwest, another partner in this year’s Scam Awareness Week, also reflects on the prevalence of cyber-criminal activity in the banking space, with more than $16 million of its customer’s money being targeted by scammers between September 2020 and September 2021. 

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Bankwest executive manager, fraud management services Audrey Pajmon said that one of the “most effective weapons wielded by scammers” was the hesitation for their victims to come forward. 

“These criminals are professionals at what they do, developing increasingly sophisticated methods and preying on our most fundamental human needs, so it’s critical we eliminate the stigma of embarrassment,” Ms Pajmon said.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that ANZ customers had also sent $77 million to scammers.

Businesses urged to protect themselves

While this year’s initiative is devoted at consumer awareness, other members of this year’s Scam Awareness Week – including the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) and Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) - have teamed up to urge safer digital practice for online businesses after finding that $128 million was stolen from businesses in scam-related activity last year. 

As such, they are encouraging small businesses to register for PayID or use BPAY and e-invoicing when paying or receiving payment for invoices to help beat scammers.

COSBOA chief executive Alexi Boyd said: “We know that many small business owners feel that they don’t have resources to carefully consider their cybersecurity. Their role in the supply chain with big business and increasing digital engagement with government makes them vulnerable. Scammers take advantage of this. 

“Using services such as two-step authentication, e-invoicing and double-checking the authenticity of webpage links are easy and simple steps to protect yourself from these very costly – and abhorrent – scams.”

ASBFEO Bruce Billson shared Ms Boyd’s sentiments, stating: “One of the most financially harmful scams affecting Australian businesses, including small businesses, is the ‘business email compromise’ scam.”

Mr Boyd later added: “It is important to know how to protect yourself from business email compromise scams. If you get a request to change your payment details, and you are in doubt at any time, make sure you call to verify the details before making the payment.”

Previous reports have indicated that not only are scams increasing, but activity specifically directed at the financial sector is increasing. 

In August, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) stated that roughly 58 per cent of data breaches in the financial sector were considered to be either malicious or criminal related. 

Furthermore, recent instances have also highlighted that the broking industry is not immune from this threat, with reports of attackers successfully impersonating brokers and borrowers to intercept payments.

However, this increase of cyber-criminal activity – for both consumers and businesses – has caught the eye of politicians, with the Labor Party announcing its plans to address cyber crime, including the establishment of National Anti-Scam Centre, if elected at the next federal election. 

[Related: ANZ customers sent $77m to scammers, reveals CEO]

Businesses urged to protect themselves against scams
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Sam Nichols

Sam Nichols is a journalist at The Adviser and Mortgage Business. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including ABC News, SBS' The Feed, and VICE.

 

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