Monday, 02 March 2009 12:08

Fraud Week targets online and real-world scammers

This is National Consumer Fraud Week - an inter-governmental effort intended to alert people to the activities of scammers.

Backed by the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT), National Consumer Fraud Week runs from March 2 to 8, and  aims to alert people to common scams so they can protect themselves against the unscrupulous.

"Fraudsters are targeting Australians every day through the mail and the internet. It is important to remember, if an offer you receive looks too good to be true, it probably is," said the Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.

"One of the best ways Australians can protect themselves online is to sign up to the Stay Smart Online alert service. The service provides simple, up-to-date advice on online security threats and scams," he added.

The service delivers alerts about current threats and vulnerabilities, advisories about less critical issues, newsletters, and fact sheets.

People can also subscribe to SCAMwatch email alerts sent by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission whenever a new type of scam is detected or when a particular type of scam becomes commonplace.

SCAMwatch focuses on online and real-world scams.

What's on the SCAMwatch radar? See page 2.

Current concerns include bogus emails purporting to be from the Australian Tax Office or Centrelink in connection with the household stimulus package.

Payments under the package will be made automatically to qualifying individuals that have already submitted their 2007-08 tax return.

"SCAMwatch reminds Australians that the ATO, Centrelink or banks will never send emails requesting verification of personal details," said ACCC officials.

Another current problem is people posing as charity collectors supporting the Victorian bushfire appeals.

"The scammers can approach people in the street, by knocking on the door, telephoning, sending spam emails or creating false charity sites on the internet," warns the ACCC.

If you want to make a donation, the ACCC recommends that you approach relevant charities directly.

The Victorian government lists the details of the three main bushfire-related funds on its Consumer Affairs website.

The ACFT comprises 18 government agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand, and is supported by various private sector organisations.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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