Nicole Murdoch, a principal lawyer at Brisbane’s Eaglegate Lawyers, said the latest figures show that cyber criminals are preying on individuals and businesses every 10 minutes, “trying to drain victims’ bank accounts”.
She said the rising prevalence of cyber crime is seeing Australians lose millions of dollars a year to thieves and online scammers.
There have been more than 13,500 reports of cyber crime to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) in the past three months, the lawyer noted.
While romance and bank scams are the frontrunners in the cyber theft world, Ms Murdoch said “email scams have become so sophisticated, honest people can easily be hoodwinked by a scammer”.
The lawyer cited the case where a 65-year-old retiree reportedly lost $66,000 when he transferred money to what he thought was a legitimate bank account after buying a car from a dealership.
“He received an email with an invoice and bank details, so he paid, only to later discover either a cyber criminal had got into the dealership’s computer network and sent the email, or his email account could have been hacked,” Ms Murdoch said.
“Sadly, stories like this are becoming commonplace.
“Retirees especially are being targeted by cyber criminals who claim to be from banks or internet service providers, claiming your computer has a virus they can remove if you give them control of your system.”
Types of scams
Ms Murdoch highlighted that romance scams involve a criminal cultivating an online relationship with a person over several months before persuading them to transfer money for medical treatment or essential goods.
Bank scams involve a person being sent a text or email that appears to be from their bank, requesting log-in details to fix a problem with their credit card or online banking. If the person supplies the details, it allows the cyber criminal access to the bank account.
The lawyer also indicated that compromised emails “are one of the top issues being reported to the ACSC by businesses”.
“For example, a criminal hacks into a business email account and pretends to be a legitimate employee and sends an email to another employee who might be the person who makes online payments and tricks them into making an online payment to the criminal,” she explained.
Ransomware is also prolific, with Ms Murdoch commenting that criminals can take control of your computer system and make you pay a ransom to get your computer system back under your control again.
The lawyer has advised that “the safe option is: never supply your log-in details or passwords or bank account details to a caller or in response to an email unless you have initiated the contact with that institution”.
She urges Australians to regularly change their banking passwords or financial apps and create passwords that cannot easily be guessed.
Ms Murdoch also advises against using the same password across all apps and accounts.