FRAUDSTERS and scammers are becoming ever more sophisticated in thinking up new traps to help you part with your money.
The Australian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is conducting a survey to discover just how widespread frauds and scams are.
The most recent statistics for 2009 show that while there was a decrease in the number of incidents of adware, spyware and other unwanted software by 30 per cent, 22 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, worms were up 197 per cent and password-stealing software increased 154 per cent.
Here are nine tips to help you stay safe and vigilant online.
1. Use anti-virus software
Malware, trojans, backdoors - even if you don't know what they are the latest anti-virus software does, so make sure you have it and update it regularly.
Malware is the installation of unwanted and/or malicious software on your computer. It usually comes through email with suspect links or attachments.
If something looks even slightly defective, delete it immediately and, whatever you do, don't click on an attachment if you are unsure about its credibility.
2. Avoid shared computers
Don't use public computers (i.e. computers at internet cafes etc) to access confidential and personal information. Public computers are renowned as hotbeds of malware that can follow your every movement, such as your online banking. Don't ever use them for accessing your bank details.
3. Log out
Don't stay signed in to internet banking, online accounts, social media etc on computers or phones. The advent of smartphones means you can be logged into every single social media website and your bank accounts at the same time. Most good banking apps sign you off after a short period but if they don't, it's in your interest to log out as soon as you've finished your transaction.
4. Reply with care
Don't respond to emails regarding your financial details that you didn't solicit. This is called phishing. Even if they look legitimate, and most of them do now, your bank is never going to ask you to confirm details via an email. If you're not sure, give them a call. Another rampant scam purports to be from the Australian Taxation Office regarding your tax refund.
5. Links can stink
Don't click on links in emails. Some anti-virus software turns off links in your emails, which is helpful. If you're not sure where something is coming from, type the details directly into your browser. Even if a link looks legitimate, clever fraudsters can redirect you somewhere you really don't want to go.
6. Socialise with vigilance
Don't give personal information away on social media sites and be careful of your updates. A picture of your new computer on Instagram, followed by an update of your Bali holiday on Facebook, is an invitation to a criminal, particularly if you have your location services turned on - which means they know exactly where you live.
7. Block pop-ups
Disable pop-ups. Spyware that records your keystrokes - and therefore passwords - is often installed via pop-ups. Be on the safe side and disable them.
8. Choose passwords carefully
Change passwords regularly, don't give them away and make them hard to guess. That means your birthdate, any derivative of your name or children's names are a no-no.
9. False apps
Only use apps from official stores or websites and check banking apps etc are definitely from the financial institution. Just as technology advances and develops, so do the cyber criminals and if they haven't already, they will soon find a way to steal your identity via false apps.