Co-author: Justine Davies
This week (August 12-16) is National Scams Awareness Week, and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released sobering new statistics on how much Aussies will lose to scams this year.
According to the ACCC, projections based on the losses already reported this year to Scamwatch and other government agencies show total scam-related losses of $532 million by the end of the year; an all-time high.
According to RBA figures, June alone saw Australians spend just over $26140 million dollars on their credit cards, and make a total of 226,047,000 different transactions in the same period. That’s a whole lot of money, and a significant number of opportunities for scammers to try to intersect. And unfortunately for the average consumer, according to the Australian Payments Network (the industry’s self-regulatory body), credit card fraud is both here to stay and getting more advanced.
The theme of this year’s National Scams Awareness Week is ‘too smart to be scammed?”, with the goal of getting individuals to refresh their scams knowledge and awareness, and confirm that they’re confident about spotting and protecting against a scam if they’re targeted by one.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard notes that “many people are confident they would never fall for a scam but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target”, and with this in mind it might be worth brushing up on our tips on helping avoid credit card fraud. And while there’s no foolproof way to guarantee you will never be a victim, there are ways to reduce your risk. These include:
1. Don’t throw personal documents into the bin
If you are disposing of any documents that include personal details, make sure you shred or otherwise destroy them (e.g. soak them in water) before tossing them into the bin. Buying a home shredder can be a great investment! Some document types you may want to consider giving the Freddy Krueger treatment are:
- Bank correspondence (including savings account and credit card statements)
- Any letters or documents received from the Government
- Any documents that contain personal or identifying information
2. Keep your mail secure and protected as well
Buying a lock for your letter box (or using a PO Box) can also be a good idea. And if you’re going to be away for a while on holidays or otherwise, make sure you either put a hold on your mail or have someone collect it for you regularly.
This can also help to prevent break-ins – nothing screams “I’m away on holiday and my house is empty” quite like a pile of mail at your front door or gate.
3. Read your own mail and financial statements
How often do you get a credit card statement and toss it onto a “to be read later/never” pile? It could be a good idea to get into the habit of opening all your financial statements and checking them carefully for any sign of suspicious activity or financial fraud. That goes for your other bank accounts and your superannuation fund as well! But remember to shred them up when you’re done with them.
4. Check your credit history regularly
An idea to keep track of your credit history is to get a free copy of your credit score. This will alert you to any attempts to apply for credit in your name.
5. Be cautious when buying online
We all love shopping online – but be cautious about who you share your credit card details with. Think carefully before buying anything from a website that looks overly fishy, and try to avoid websites that don’t offer the use of a secure payment facility such as PayPal.
Additionally, be aware of the potential risks of using online payment services that require your card details. If they were hacked or had their database otherwise accessed by someone up to no good, it could result in you falling victim to credit card fraud.
6. Keep the ATM keypad covered
When entering your PIN, it is generally a good idea to cover the ATM keypad and be aware of who is around you. You may also want to be wary of using PayPass or similar NFC technologies (like Apple Pay and Google Pay) in busy places, as technology exists which can allow someone to intercept data during an NFC transaction and potentially obtain your card details in the process.
7. Always know where your card is
New contactless NFC technology such as Tap & Go, payWave, and PayPass makes unauthorised spending on your card very easy if someone manages to get their hands on it. So keep it secure at all times and if you lose it, report it straight away. Check our guide on what to do if you lose your credit card.
8. Stay digitally protected
Statistics show online hacking has overtaken other forms of financial fraud. So it can be a good idea to keep the virus and security software on your computers and mobile devices updated, and try to avoid visiting or buying from websites that have questionable security.
And it goes without saying to do your best to avoid clicking on links in scam emails. Here’s a list of some online banking scams to look out for.
9. Never give credit card details over the phone
If you need to make a payment or want to donate to a charity, it can be a good ides to do it online via a secure payment method or by directly phoning the organisation, because credit card scammers can access your information over the phone if they impersonate another institution.
10. If you think you’ve been scammed, report it ASAP
If you think you may have been scammed, let your financial institution know ASAP and report it to both the Police and the ACCC (via Scamwatch).
If you’re currently comparing credit cards, the comparison table below displays some of the low interest credit cards currently available on Canstar’s database for Australians looking to spend around $2,000 per month. Please note that this table features links direct to the provider’s website, and is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), followed by provider name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s credit card comparison selector to view a wider range of credit cards.