New trick helps scammers swipe millions

 

Australians are being warned to take extra care on social media after a new take on an old scam has robbed victims of thousands of dollars.

Fake job ads posted to platforms including Facebook, Gumtree and Nextdoor are being used to steal victims' identities and order goods on their behalf, helping to push the total scammed from Aussies on social networks to more than $16 million this year alone.

Scammers are also targeting small groups to extract the most money out of victims, experts warn, including the Chinese community which paid more than $750,000 to extortion scammers in one month alone this year.

The warnings come on the first day of Stay Smart Online Week, which authorities are using to highlight increasingly sophisticated online threats in a bid to "reverse the threat of cybercrime".

Figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Scamwatch reveal Australians have lost more than $95 million to scammers so far this year, as criminals devised new ways to trick their victims.

Social media scams have already stolen more this year than the entire amount lost in 2018, and an ACCC spokeswoman said fake job scams on social networks had risen 36 per cent compared to last year.

Brisbane university student Yousaf Inayat said he fell victim to the scam after replying to an ad for casual house cleaning on new social network, Nextdoor.

Mr Inayat said the woman seemed legitimate and asked the right kinds of questions.

"She said I was the perfect person for the job and she sounded so genuine that I couldn't believe she was a scammer," he said.

"She asked about what time I could start, what times I could work, how much money I would charge per hour and things like that. Then she said give me your details so I can verify you and you can start work."

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The woman asked Mr Inayat to provide his name, date of birth, address, copies of his driver's licence and Medicare card, previous employer, and his phone carrier.

But after sending her his information, he received an early morning message from his mobile phone provider.

"It said, 'thanks for ordering an Apple iPhone XS Max,' the most expensive one," he said.

"I cancelled the order but if I was an hour late it would be been dispatched."

Scammers were also increasingly targeting the Chinese community in Australia, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. Picture: Supplied
Scammers were also increasingly targeting the Chinese community in Australia, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. Picture: Supplied

Another three people have since come forward on the Nextdoor platform claiming they responded to job ads from the same person.

Scammers were also increasingly targeting the Chinese community in Australia, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said, with "particularly distressing" scams threatening their arrest or extradition to China unless they paid and even posed for fake kidnapping photos.

"In July alone, the Chinese-speaking community lost over three quarters of a million dollars," Ms Rickard said. "We've seen several individuals lose tens of thousands of dollars."

Sophos global solutions engineer Aaron Bugal said scammers were targeting smaller groups, and smaller businesses, to make the most money for their efforts.

He said consumers should carefully scrutinise unsolicited text messages, phone calls, and emails and resist demands to take action immediately.

"If somebody knocks at your door at 6pm, you say 'not right now' and close the door," Mr Bugal said.

"That's the tack that we should be taking with some of the emails that arrive in our inbox. Why is this email asking me to do something immediately when it doesn't look and smell right? Maybe I should look at it after I've had a think about it."