Nila Sweeney

Protecting yourself from being scammed can prove to be a tough business these days with fraudsters constantly developing new ways to steal.


Findings by the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA) have revealed that card fraud increased from 33.3 cents in 2009, to 35.6 cents in 2010 in every $1,000 transacted. Our cards are sure to get a workout this holiday season so YMM investigates the best ways to safeguard your cash.


Over the years, there have been numerous scams doing the rounds, but ‘skimming’ and ‘card-not-present’ (CNP) rackets that are now the most prevalent types of fraud.


Skimming is a more direct version of a phishing scam. It’s the illegal copying of information from the magnetic strip of a credit or ATM card. Once a card has been skimmed, scammers use the account holder’s details to create a ‘cloned’ card that can be used to rack up purchases at your expense. The scammers can also steal your identity by using your personal details and account numbers, allowing them to borrow money and apply for loans in your name.


CNP purchases are made over the telephone or over the internet where the physical card has not been swiped into a reader. It is a major focus for fraudsters due to the rapid boom of e-commerce.  This means online shoppers need to be on high alert and only shop at reputable websites.


APCA CEO Chris Hamilton says that it's vital to be extremely vigilant on the web, "There are the fundamental precautions that always apply to e-commerce like making sure you know who you are dealing with and keeping your web security up to the highest standard".


So, what are the best ways to protect your cards? According to the APCA and ScamWatch:


  • Never use a credit or debit card on non-secure online websites, always look for secure checkout symbols and site seals.

  • Check that your internet browser is displaying a closed padlock icon in the lower-right corner of your browser window. A safe connection should show the URL beginning with https://, instead of http:// where the ‘s’ indicates the site is secure. If that padlock isn’t present or unlocked, then you’re shopping on an unsecure connection - don't enter your card details.

  • Wi-Fi hot spots in public access areas like cafes or libraries are dangerous places to make transactions. Even though they provide free access to the web, many of these networks have unsecure wireless connections, making it easy for thieves to hack in and grab personal information.

  • Don't use online banking services when accessing internet in a public Wi-Fi location either. Hackers can tap into your unsecure network connection and walk away with your username, password and all your personal information.

  • Offers that appear ‘too good to be true’ probably are - don’t fall into the trap.

  • Be wary of using non-bank owned ATMs as they’re not as secure as big bank machines and are more susceptible to being hacked. In some places, people have even put up devices that look like ATMs, designed to steal you credit and debit card information.

  • Always check out the ATM before you withdraw cash. There have been numerous cases where both big bank and non-bank owned ATMs were found fitted with skimming devices wired to the crooks that installed them.

  • Protect your PIN; shield it when using an ATM or EFTPOS terminal by using your free hand to cover the key-pad as you enter it.

  • Be particularly wary of emails or telephone calls asking you to share your PIN for security or login purposes. Banks will never ask you to reveal your PIN.

  • According to the Personal Fraud Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), over 5.8 million Australians were exposed to a range of scams in the 12 months preceding the survey. About 499,500 people were victims of identity fraud where 383,300 were victims of credit or debit card fraud.


Keep yourself safe by checking out for the latest scams to avoid.


 -Nastasha Tupas

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