How do Scammers get our Personal Information?

A big question I get at a lot of scams awareness information sessions I facilitate in South-East Queensland is: how do scammers get our personal information?  When we sometimes get daily calls from scammers, how did they know which number to call?  Let’s explore a couple of ways scammers get our information.

  • Firstly, especially in regards to phone calls out of the blue, the scammer could have a computer to randomly input numbers to see if they are active
  • Scammers may receive our information through Phishing Scams. These scams are often spammed to a lot of people at once and aim to trick you into disclosing person information.  There are many versions of phishing scams – emails claiming that your bank account has been accessed without your permission, surveys online or text messages claiming that you have a parcel on the way.
  • Some scammers take advantage of security weaknesses on our devices or online accounts and can steal our information through hacking
  • Scammers may hack businesses or Government accounts in order to gain access to people’s information.
  • Scammers may trick you with a malware This is where, by opening an attachment in an email, text message or online, it installs software onto your device which allows the scammer access to files and information.  Some malware scams may share your key-strokes with the scammers therefore allowing them access to passwords or personal information.
  • Scammers may steal mail from your letterbox or bin and use the personal information enclosed in the document.
  • We willingly give out information – without realising the potential ramifications, we often share a lot of personal information on social media which can be taken advantage of. In hopes of seeing our personal information, scammers may create fake profiles (either impersonating another person’s account or creating a purely fictious account).

This can all sound really scary.  It may make you consider destroying all your devices and living your life off the grid.  The goal of our scam’s awareness project is to raise awareness to the potential risks so we can focus on what you can do to protect yourself.

So, what are some strategies to protect your personal information?

  • Choose strong, difficult to guess passwords and do not share them with anyone.
  • Place a lock on your mailbox and shred no longer needed documentation instead of throwing it in the bin.
  • Do not open any hyperlinks or attachments unless you know were they came from and what they will open. If you aren’t 100% that it is safe, don’t risk it.
  • Ensure that you are on secured websites. Secured websites creates an encrypted connection between your web browser and the site web server. This prevents criminals on the internet from eavesdropping on your internet traffic with the purpose of stealing your information.
  • Do not participate in surveys which ask for significant personal information.
  • Before posting or sharing information on social media, consider whether it is necessary and whether the information could be used without your permission.
  • Consider whether software such as anti-virus, anti-spyware and/or a firewall may be right for you.

And my number one tip, be wary of all incoming communication asking for information. Always remember to STOP and VERIFY.

STOP AND VERIFY:  If you receive a call out of the blue and they claim to be with a well-known business, Government department or service; how do you know they are who they say they are?  My number one tip is – STOP and VERIFY.

STOP = Hang up!  Some people prefer to say that they “can’t talk right now” to be polite.

VERIFY = Find the correct contact details.  You can do this by Googling the organisation or department name.  If you would like some help with this, you can call the Seniors Enquiry Line for help.  If they had tried to call you, there should be details of this on file.

For more information, please contact the Seniors Enquiry Line on 1300 135 500 anytime between 9am-5pm Mondays through Friday (excluding public holidays).