MONEY: Beware of scams
MONEY: Beware of scams

Paul Clitheroe's Making Money

BUILDING wealth isn't just about making money. It also involves plugging gaps so you're not losing money. And one way to do this in 2018 is to avoid becoming a victim of scams. In 2016 alone, Australians collectively lost $300 million to scams, with an average loss of $7,200 per victim. That's a big hit for most of us, yet a few basic steps can help keep your money safe.

Email, social media and mobile apps are the preferred tools of trade for scammers these days, and according to the Stay Smart Online website, 2018 is set to bring an increase in cyber threats. While Australians aged 45 to 54 are most likely to become victims of scams, it pays for all of us to know what to look for.

One of the most common scams involve "phishing" emails that appear to be from legitimate businesses or government departments requesting your personal details.

False billing is another con that scammers use. This is where you receive an authentic looking (but fake) bill emailed from someone pretending to be your phone or energy company.

A simple way to pick dodgy emails is by hovering your mouse over the email address. If this shows an address different from the one displayed in the message, chances are you're looking at a scam.

The bottom line is that whenever you're contacted by email out of the blue with a request to pay a bill, complete a survey or update your passwords, it's worth being skeptical.

Scammers aren't always after your money. In some cases they're trying to steal your personal information, which can be far more lucrative than a quick cash grab.

This makes it important to protect your personal details online in much the same way as you would protect your credit card or bank account.

Make sure your accounts are protected with strong passwords, and where possible, two-factor authentication like a password and a PIN. And don't use the same passwords across multiple sites.

Above all, let common-sense be your guide. If a "too-good-to-be-true" offer hits your email inbox your alarm bells should start ringing.

If you use social networking sites like Facebook, be careful who you connect with and understand how the privacy settings work for your account. It also pays to limit the information you share on social media. Personal details can be collected by people trying to assume your identity.

For more ideas on staying safe, take a look at the ACCC's Little Black Book of Scams. You can download it for free from the ACCC website. Or regularly check the Scamwatch and the Stay Smart Online websites - both have details of the latest scams doing the rounds, with tips on how to avoid falling for them.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.