It’s National Consumer Fraud Week in Australia. This year’s theme, “It’s Personal,” draws our focus to the very significant personal impact of scams, and how we can take steps ourselves to fight fraud on the home front.
Today’s scammers and fraudsters are getting faster, more creative, and more sophisticated. Medicare Australia and Centrelink urged Australians to watch out for hoax telephone calls just last month. Callers were pretending to work for the agencies and requesting personal information, exploiting the public’s trust in Australian government officers. Sadly, scammers also often ask people for money under the guise of donation collectors. It’s happened after disasters such as the Queensland floods and Christchurch earthquake.
I think by now most of us know that the best form of defense is to protect our personal details. From changing passwords and pins and omitting details such as addresses, birthdays, and phone numbers from public websites, to adjusting the privacy settings on social networking sites, people are becoming much more responsible in the way they interact with the online world.
Or are they?
I was incredibly surprised when I discovered that people are pretty laissez faire when it comes to securing the gadgets they carry around with them every day, such as BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPads, and netbooks. According to the Unisys Security Index, nearly six out of 10 Australians never secure their mobiles, PDAs, or smartphones by using, and regularly changing, a password or PIN. Less than one in five always secure their mobile device.
Ask yourself this: If someone stole or found your phone, what could they find out about you? Could they access your work and/or personal e-mail? What would the last Internet pages or apps you accessed reveal about you? Have you saved log-in details, a tax file number, or a bank account number in the notes section? Have you ever used the password protection options on the iPad?
Don’t let yourself be easy pickings for scammers. Lock your device with a password or PIN, and change it regularly. This time, it’s personal.