The world is changing and while there has always been someone around to swindle someone out of something we now have to “watch out” for the online scam. I am very conscious of suspicious emails and have a habit of warning others and yet it happened to me!
Yesterday I got an email from one of my energy providers. The email looked legitimate and I did not give it a second thought that the email could be a scam. By a scam I mean someone is trying to get access to my computer, gain my personal details and engage in identity fraud.
The email turned up in my junk mail. This in itself should have sent off a warning bell. I moved the email to my inbox and attempted to open the attachments, this is the very thing you should not do with scam emails. As many of you know, your computer can become infected with a virus and your identity stolen.
As I had difficulty opening the attachments I logged on to the website of my energy provider to check the bill and download it from there. The login in would not accept my password. I then got a new password but still no success. Then I entered the world of the online chat with the energy provider staff member. After a few preliminaries he said the email could be a scam and asked me to give him the details of the email address, that is, where the email had come from. Immediately I looked at this I knew I had a scam email. After the password issue was fixed I then went about deleting the scam email.
There are a few lessons in this experience for me, including: checking the email address; knowing when my energy bills are due to arrive; making sure the bill is for the right energy source (in this case the energy provider bill was for electricity when it is only my gas provider) and having an up to date anti-virus and spy malware software product.
Fortunately, for me and my “one & only” we have a very good software product to protect our computers. However, it did surprise me when I opened the email that the anti-virus was on alert and had to fix a problem. Today I did a scan of my computer to make sure it was clean! The word I would like to emphasise is if you have a reliable anti-virus and “scan” you can sidestep the “scam”. A software product will work on our behalf when we are not aware of a problem, even when we are asleep!
All of us, not only seniors, need to be alert about scams and the damage they can do. Last year Australians lost over $229 million to scams. However, many older Australians who are not as savvy with technology can become easy victims of scams.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has a website called “Scam Watch”. Many scams target older Australians so we all need to spread the word. The ACCC’s research has shown that older people are particularly vulnerable with investment and dating and romance scams.
There is some great information to raise awareness of the issue on the ACCC website and about how we can protect ourselves. Go to the site here for further information.