On The Topic of Fraud (Part One): A Few Easy Steps To Help Protect You From Potential Fraudsters

Posted On: 24 November, 2014 Xiaoshu Liu

Fraud cases flood the media these days and financial losses suffered by the victims can easily range anywhere between a few dollars and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The figures are much bigger for businesses. We become increasingly vulnerable to fraud due to the advances in technology and the easy access to personal information.

This article aims to share a few easy steps that might help protect individuals from potential fraudsters. One of the most effective means of self-protection against fraud is to safeguard your personal information. Apart from the obvious bank and credit card details, your full name, date of birth and residential address are among the most important pieces of information to fraudsters.

1. Safe Use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and Eftpos Terminals

This is an old tip you may have heard many times: cover the PIN pad while using an ATM or an Eftpos terminal. It is a simple but yet effective way to prevent any cameras from capturing your PIN.

2. Resumes and Fraud Prevention

Remove the date of birth and residential address from your resume. Most recruitment processes are initiated electronically through websites such as Seek, Indeed and LinkedIn. If a potential employer has a role to discuss with you, you can certainly let them know how far you are willing to travel during your discussion. As to your age, it is a question you do not have to answer in most interviews anyway. Should you include your date of birth and address details on your resume, that innocent piece of paper or word file could easily be used to conduct fraudulent activities under your name if fallen into the wrong hands.

3. Social Media and Fraud

Be careful with the personal information that is on your social media profiles. A lot of information about an individual can now be learnt via social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Tweeter. They are excellent tools in terms of helping us keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues. However, it may be worthwhile to be mindful of the amount of personal information that is available on your profile and the privacy settings of your account. Questions you may wish to consider include:

  • Do you have the full date of birth (including the year) available on your profile?
  • Who can see your personal information? Your friends only or is it publically available?

 

4. Mail Management

We are so used to emails and phone calls these days and it is easy to pay very little attention to the old letter boxes and letters received in the mail. Unsecure letter boxes provide an opportunity for fraudsters to steal your mail, which by default already contains your name and address. All they need is one letter that contains your date of birth before they can do some serious damages. It would be sensible to ensure your letter box is securely locked and letters with sensitive information are shredded before they are disposed of.

5. Cyber Security

Cyber security can be a billion dollar question for governments and businesses. For the average individuals, there are a number of easy steps that can be taken to help reduce our exposure to fraud:

  • Have an up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your computer;
  • Scan your computer regularly for potential viruses;
  • Password protect your computer;
  • Do not save your bank account log in details into the browser;
  • Do not open emails if you are uncertain about who the sender is;
  • Do not rely on the displayed name of an email sender. Check the actual email address before opening an email. For example, an email that displays the sender as the ATO but was sent from no-reply@ato.net.au probably should not be opened, as the ATO’s website is ato.gov.au;
  • Be cautious about the links contained in emails and do not click on them unless you are certain who the sender is;
  • Similar precautions should also be taken for mobile devices.

6. Bank and Credit Card Transaction History or Statements

Do you check your bank and credit card transaction history or statements? If you don’t, you may have already fallen victim to fraud without realising it. Many fraudsters repeatedly take small amounts out of their victims’ accounts to avoid detection. Unauthorised cab charges are a perfect example: when an unsuspecting passenger pays for their cab fare by credit card, the cab driver skims the credit card details. The same driver then later on applies small cab charges to the credit card for trips that have never been taken. By simply checking your transaction history, bank or credit card statements on regular basis, and make enquires about transactions that you do not recognise, you could detect unauthorised outbound payments and help put a stop to these fraudulent activities.

7. Other Resources to Help Fight Fraud

Credit File

Your credit file can be used to detect fraud that may have been committed under your name. Most organisations conduct a credit check before any credit is granted to a customer. Your credit file records the details on the name of the organisation that accessed your credit file, the date of and a brief reason for such access. It is a good exercise to request a copy of your credit file on regular basis to ensure that any suspicious activities can be investigated into as soon as possible. You may be eligible for a free copy of the report (http://www.mycreditfile.com.au/home/free-credit-file.dot). Alternatively, you may wish to set up a paid alert service (http://www.mycreditfile.com.au/) in which case you will receive an alert every time your credit file is accessed.

SCAMwatch

SCAMwatch (http://www.scamwatch.gov.au) is operated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It provides the general public with information on recognition and avoidance of various types of scams. The site also publishes scam alerts and real life stories of scam victims. It is a valuable consumer education tool on scams and fraud.

Your Bank

Banks may also provide useful tips and other information on fraud prevention and detection. For example, ANZ has a dedicated section on their website on security (http://www.anz.com.au/personal/ways-bank/security/). It has detailed information on various types of fraud threats and practical tips on how consumers can protect themselves. It may be worthwhile to visit your bank’s website or call their customer support team if you wish to learn more about what you can do to safeguard your assets and reduce your exposure to fraud.

Fraud evolves with the advance of technology and it would almost be impossible to completely erase it from existence. However, there are precautions we could take to reduce our exposure to fraud. This article has pointed out a number of simple steps towards such a goal. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and hope it has helped. In the upcoming Part 2 of the series, the topic of fraud will be examined in the context of a financial services organisation.

Note: This article is for general information purpose only. Products, services and organisations referred to in the article are for illustration purposes and do not represent endorsement of any kind by Xenia Compliance or the author. All thoughts and feedback are welcome. Please contact the author Xiaoshu Liu at x.liu@xeniacompliance.com.au. Thank you again for reading this article.