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How to protect yourself from scams

Kamahl Cogdon, August 18, 2020 6:45PM Kids News

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More of us are buying and banking online during the coronavirus pandemic so we need to be alert to scams. media_cameraMore of us are buying and banking online during the coronavirus pandemic so we need to be alert to scams.


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Online banking and buying have increased during the coronavirus pandemic as people limit trips outside the home.

The rise of online transactions* has been seen for many years, as more Australians choose to manage their money at home and on the go, but COVID-19 has seen people step up their use of the technology in recent months.

While this offers more convenience and has helped restrict the spread of the virus, it has also created an opportunity for scammers who use clever tricks to try to steal people’s money online.

Australians lost more than $634 million to scams in 2019, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Targeting Scams Report.

Computer hacker stealing data from a laptop media_cameraScammers are taking advantage of the increase in online transactions during the coronavirus pandemic to try to steal people’s money.

The most common tricks include email, phone call and SMS scams that deceive* someone into handing over banking and other personal details. Scammers can also use malicious* software* to infect a computer and steal the owner’s data.

Banks use the latest technology to help keep their customers’ information and money safe from fraud* and theft. But individuals also need to play their part to protect themselves from becoming a victim of a scam.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we bank, with more Australians choosing to bank online and use apps and digital wallets to pay with their phones,” said Westpac director of digital security Josh Nast.

“With people spending more time online, there is an opportunity for scammers and fraudsters to take advantage of vulnerable* people.

“Banks like Westpac work hard to protect your money using the latest technology, and teams of experts work around the clock to monitor accounts. But it’s important that you also take steps to protect yourself to stay safe online.”

Mr Nast said one of the best ways to protect yourself was to “stay up to date with the different types of scams commonly circulating”.

These are regularly reported on and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch website.

media_cameraAn example of a scam SMS message that asks you to click on a link.

Phone scams

These are unexpected calls where the caller claims to be from a reputable* organisation and offers to assist with a computer issue. They request “remote access” to your computer and then attempt to gain access to your personal accounts. Sometimes they ask for your information, such as banking details.

How to avoid: If someone calls and asks to access your computer, hang up and never share your SMS security codes.

Westpac - scam email alert. For Kids News media_cameraScam emails like this one can look real but banks and other reputable business will not send emails asking you to click on a link.

Email scams

These emails often look like they are from real organisations, such as banks and government departments.

Email scams can be particularly well-designed and hard to spot. They come with a link that you are asked to click on. You might then be asked to enter your banking details into a fake site, known as “phishing”, or your computer or device could be infected with malicious software.

How to avoid: Banks and reputable businesses will not send emails or SMS messages with a link to log into online banking. Do not click on links from unknown or unexpected emails or texts, and don’t open attachments.

Westpac - Telstra Bill email scam alert. For Kids News media_cameraScammers don’t only use banks to try to trick customers into giving them their details.

Other ways you can protect yourself from becoming the target of a scam include:

  • Making sure you have the latest update on your phone
  • Installing the latest antivirus software on your device and keeping it up to date
  • Being careful not to share personal information online, including when you share status updates, respond to memes and enter competitions
  • Not accepting friend requests from strangers. Regularly check your privacy settings before sharing personal information publicly
  • Switching to eStatements. Criminals steal from letterboxes and will use whatever they can to build up a profile of you. By using eStatements (such as for your bank account or mobile phone), you will not only help the environment, but you’ll keep your confidential information in your inbox
  • If you do receive a strange or unexpected email, SMS or call, take a break and don’t feel you have to respond instantly. Chat to a family member and tell them what’s going on
Hacker attack and data breach, information leak and cybersecurity concept. media_cameraBanks use the latest technology to keep our money and information safe, but we need to play our part too.

Banks store their customers’ personal information, such as names and addresses, electronically in secure data centres in Australia and overseas.

They also use the latest technology to monitor customers’ accounts and protect them against theft, with an alert triggered if an unusual transaction is detected.

“We try our best to protect customers from scammers, but we need people to be on high alert too,” Mr Nast said.

“Always think twice about what you’re sharing online and ask yourself, who might use this information?

“If something doesn’t feel right, it’s worth chatting to someone or seeking help from your bank.”


  • transactions: buying and selling
  • deceive: trick
  • malicious software: a program that harms a computer system or network
  • fraud: a trick used by a criminal for their own gain
  • vulnerable: those who are more at risk
  • reputable: well respected


Modern ways to learn the value of pocket money

Keeping up with the ways we use money

Going cashless at hi-tech tuck shops


  1. How much money did Australians lose to scams in 2019?
  2. What are three common types of scam?
  3. What should you do if someone calls and asks to access your computer?
  4. Do banks and other reputable businesses send emails or SMS messages with links to log on to online banking?
  5. What happens if a bank detects unusual transactions on an account?


1. Real v Digital Money
Divide a page into two columns. Write “Advantages of paying digitally” at the top of the first column and “Disadvantages of paying digitally” at the top of the second column.

Work with a classmate to list the advantages and disadvantages of using online methods, such as tap ‘n’ go and paying with your phone using different digital wallet apps, rather than paying with actual money.

Think about different generations (young kids up to elderly Australians) and the different ways it affects different age groups and society as a whole.

Share your reasons with the class.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Digital technologies, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Make up a short jingle giving non-tech savvy people some reminders of how to protect themselves from scammers when using digital and online banking methods. It should be catchy and get a few key messages in a relatively short jingle. Banks or other financial institutions could then use a jingle such as this in their marketing and advertising campaigns.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

Grammar and VCOP
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s.

Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you ever been the victim of a scam?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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