MILDURA police say there has been a “significant” increase in scammers and cyber thieves targeting residents over the past few months.
The rise in online and phone scams has prompted police to warn Mildura residents to remain vigilant and protect themselves from fraud.
Recent data shows Victorians have lost more than $4 million to online and phone scams in less than five months and Mildura has not been immune .
Mildura police Detective Senior Constable Emily Redmond said scammers were constantly using more sophisticated and savvy measures to lure unsuspecting victims.
“More often than not these scammers are based overseas, and the money obtained from these scams are sent offshore,” Sen. Constable Redmond said.
“This makes it incredibly difficult to hold those responsible accountable and rarely are victims being compensated for the money lost.”
Sen. Constable Redmond said any demographic of the community could become the target of scammers, however, the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions may have contributed to the increase.
“A lot of people were falling victims to scams during COVID, especially puppy scams because there was an increase in people wanting to buy puppies during the pandemic, so with the added demand, we saw and increase in those scams,” she said.
“But there have also been a lot of text messaging and phone call scams with people cold-calling pretending to be a bank or an organisation.
“It’s hard to tell sometimes, but if in doubt hang up the phone and use a number form their website to call them back.”
Sen. Constable Redmond urged anyone who has been targeted by scammers and cyber thieves to report the matter to Scamwatch.
“A lot of this type of activity goes unreported and data can be grossly underestimated because a lot of people aren’t reporting the scams,” she said.
“But the prevalence of reporting has definitely increased, especially in the past couple of months, and we are getting multiple reports weekly.”
Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and provides information to consumers and business about how to recognise and avoid scams.Common scams being reported to Mildura police include:
– Cold calls or text messages from scammers posing as well-known organisations or financial institutions. Scammers may ask for remote access to your computer, to share bank details and passwords, PINs and other personal information.
– Pet scams where scammers create fake pet breeder websites or impersonate other breeders with the promise of selling puppies and kittens.
– Business email compromise where scammers hack into business systems and send emails to suppliers and providers coupled with an invoice for payment. The invoice will contain bank details to an account accessed by the scammer.
– Dating and romance scams where scammers create a fictional online profile. Scammers will gain the trust of the victim and ask them to send intimate photographs. The scammer will often use those photographs to blackmail the victim.What to do if you think you have been scammed:
– Never provide any personal details over the phone unless you are certain of who you are talking to.
– Be cautious of clicking on any links received in text messages from businesses or organisations.
– Be cautious when sharing personal photographs with prospective partners, especially if you have never met them before.
– If you are unsure if the call, text message or email is a scam, contact the company directly using a phone number obtained from their official website.