Protecting yourself from online scams
How to avoid being scammed online
Here are our tips on protecting yourself from online scams and
reducing your cyber risk. We also explain what you can do if you
have been the victim of a scam online.
How to protect your
Use strong passwords
Creating and using passwords is a part of doing almost anything
online. Passwords protect your personal information, so it is
important to create strong passwords and change them regularly.
Here are some tips on creating and using passwords:
- Don't tell anyone your passwords - a legitimate business or
company should never ask you for your password, so never share this
information via email or over the phone.
- Good passwords should have a combination of at least eight
characters and include letters (upper case and lower case), numbers
and symbols e.g. sDke$5!2.
- Use different passwords to access different online
- Don't allow your computer to save your passwords.
- Don't store passwords in a file on your computer.
Use anti-virus programs and keep operating systems up to
Anti-virus programs help protect you against computer viruses.
Computer viruses (also called worms or Trojan horses) can access
personal information, infect your computer and delete files or even
use your computer to attack other computers.
The best way to avoid viruses is to use common sense and avoid
suspicious websites. Don't download files from unknown sources or
click links from people you don't know. You will also need a good
anti-virus program as a back up to protect your computer.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to protecting
your computer from viruses:
- Make sure you have good security software (anti-virus,
anti-spyware and a firewall) and you keep it up to date.
- Turn on automatic updates for the operating system (e.g.
Windows) and update all other applications and software programs
when updates are available through their official websites.
- Make sure your wireless network is encrypted and seek advice
from your internet provider if you're not sure how to do this.
- Turn off your computer or disconnect it from the internet when
you're not using it.
- Scan devices such as USBs or external hard drives for viruses,
before opening them.
Protect your personal information
Your personal information is valuable and you need to take
precautions to protect it when you are online, especially when you
use social media sites.
Here are a few suggestions that can help keep your private
- Activate privacy settings on social media sites and keep up to
date with privacy changes.
- Never reveal details that might identify you, such as your full
name, date of birth, addresses, tax file number or contact
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want a stranger to know or
find out about.
- Information posted online can be easily stored and archived, so
keep in mind that anything you post is never really completely
Unfortunately, it has become very easy for people to steal your
personal details and carry out illegal activities in your name. For
more information, read our page on identify theft.
For more information on how to reduce the risk and impact of
identity fraud, visit iDcare, a free national
identity and cyber support service.
Think before you shop or send money online
Taking a minute to think about what you are about to do can be
really useful when it comes to shopping or dealing with money
Here are a few things to help you stay safe online:
- Only deal with reputable online institutions.
- If you have not dealt with a business before, search online to
check recommendations and feedback from other customers.
- Never send cash overseas or to people you have never met. Use
payment methods with in-built protections such as credit cards and
secure online payment facilities.
- Be aware of counterfeit items and remember that, if an offer
seems too good to be true, it probably is.
For more useful tips, visit our page on online
Online scams to look out
Watch out for unusual emails
Email scams are a cheap, easy and efficient way for criminals to
attempt to contact people and gather personal information or
financial details from them.
Keep these things in mind when checking your emails:
- Don't open attachments or links from people you don't know. If
you don't know who sent the email, just delete it.
- Scan email attachments with security software before opening
- Legitimate companies, websites and government departments will
never ask you to confirm personal details or passwords via email,
so do not reply to emails requesting this sort of information.
- Beware of emails that don't address you by name.
- Never post your email address or any contact details on online
For more information on these sorts of scams, take a look at our
page on requests for
Beware of threatening emails
Scammers might pretend to be from a well-known organisation or
government department and try to scare you into parting with your
personal information or money. They may threaten you with a fine,
or say they will disconnect your internet, take you to court,
arrest or even deport you.
Don't be pressured by a threatening email. Instead, check
whether their story is real by contacting the organisation using
details you obtain through an independent source, like a phone book
or online search. Do not use the contact details they include in
Avoid social media scams
Scammers use social media to access personal accounts and
information, and to lure unsuspecting victims into parting with
Here are a few things to keep in mind to protect yourself when
you're on social media:
- Be wary of random or unexpected contact, particularly if you
have replied to something on a website or social media
- Do not accept messages or friend requests from someone you
- If you are contacted out of the blue, don't respond to requests
for personal details, banking or credit card details or money from
people you don't know or trust.
- Be cautious of fake social accounts pretending to be a
legitimate company - always check that the page name or handle is
the genuine account.
- Beware of entering competitions online where you have to
provide personal information.
- Be wary when clicking on advertisements involving your
- As an extra precaution, delete or emove ads for financial
products from your social feed.
Know what your kids are doing
As well as keeping yourself safe online, it is also important
that you know what your kids are doing online, as they can also
become victims of online scams.
Here are some tips that can help keep your kids out of trouble
when they're online:
- Always supervise your children when they are online.
- Consider using internet filtering to block certain search terms
- Have your computer set up in a communal area of the house.
- Get your kids into the habit of questioning things online and
ask them to tell you about any suspicious activity they run into
See the Office
of the Children's eSafety Commissioner website for more ways to
help your kids stay safe online. They have great information on how
to check the security of online games.
What to do if you've been
Think you have been scammed? Our report a scam webpage tells you which
government agencies deal with different types of scams.
For tips on what to do if you have lost money see our phishing
Be aware of the risks of online scams and always
protect your personal information.
Last updated: 10 May 2018