Frauds and scams: protecting yourself in the digital age

Friday, 25th May, 2018

Being safe online ensures your personal information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

DIGITAL technology is transforming the world and having a significant impact on our everyday lives. But, as WAYNE HOWARTH writes, with this comes the danger of your personal details falling into the wrong hands.

One area rapidly evolving is the ways in which we move and manage our money. Digitisation presents significant opportunities to consumers. However, as technology advances and grows more complex, we need to remain vigilant, particularly when it comes to managing money online.

Being safe online ensures your personal information, such as bank details and passwords, doesn’t get into the wrong hands. 

Last year, almost $100 million was lost through scams, with more than $80 million lost through digital and online tools such as email, the internet and mobile applications.

Those aged 55 or over reported more scams than any other age group, accounting for 43 per cent of the total amount lost.

Often scammers see these people as less familiar with new technologies, making them an attractive target.

Unpacking frauds and scams

Online fraud and scams refers to any type of fraudulent activity that uses email, websites, chat rooms or message boards to take advantage of unsuspecting people to access their personal details or bank accounts. 

Some common types of online fraud include:

  • Internet banking fraud – scammers use online technology to illegally remove money from, or transfer it to, a different bank account. Internet banking fraud can happen through your smartphone, tablet and other mobile devices.
  • Email scams – scammers distribute millions of fraudulent spam emails to random addresses in the hope of enticing someone to respond. Details vary but they typically request bank account or personal details in the promise of receiving a financial sum.  
  • Identity theft – a type of identity fraud that involves the theft and use of personal identifying information of an actual person, as opposed to the use of a fictitious identity.

Top tips to avoid online fraud

Here are five prevention tips from Western Union:

  • Verify first: Before sharing information or sending money, make sure you personally know the person requesting it. If you’re unsure, verify with a friend or family member first.
  • Phish/Smish: Cons often mislead people into providing personal or financial information by an unsolicited phone call, text or email. Never respond to or click on links or attachments from someone you do not know.
  • Always research: Do an online search of a company or product name with relevant words like “scam” or “complaint” to review information shared.
  • Know what to look for: Never send money to someone you haven't met in person or for a payment of goods, services or purchases found online.

 In short, be resourceful, stay educated and stop fraud.

Do your research and check out the company that contacted you with trusted Government sources such as Law Enforcement or Consumer Affairs.

Safeguarding your future

Western Union commits significant resources — funding, people and technology — to fight fraud and help protect consumers.

Western Union also works closely with law enforcement in Australia, and is a founding member of the AUSTRAC Fintel Alliance, a co-operative group comprised of partners from the public and private sectors committed to fighting financial crime.

Fraud prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Your best defence is to be aware, educate yourself and use good judgement. Learn how to spot the warning signs of a scam or scammer before they spot you!

For more information visit the Western Union fraud knowledge centre at

 * Wayne Howarth is Regional Fraud Risk Manager at Western Union APAC.

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