Sophisticated scams coming our way

Sophisticated? – perhaps not so much but rather cunning and ruthless to say the least. It is no secret that scammers are opportunistic and constantly lurking in the shadows looking for an “opening”. Scamwatch (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website)  has recently warned businesses to review their processes around email security and verification following a sharp increase in attempts to defraud businesses. There are a number of scams doing the rounds at the moment and church organisations like us are not exempt, in fact we are an easy target.

High on the top 10 this Christmas are:  

  • BEC (business email compromise)
  • Charity Scams

So what is a BEC scam? – This is when an individual gains access to a business’s email and pretends that he/she is sending correspondence from the business itself. These emails look very authentic and will often purport to come from (in the case of the Uniting Church) a minister, treasurer, church council member or a staff member, so we all need to be vigilant. The usual MO is to request a change in banking details so future payments of invoices or wages are paid to a new account the scammers have set up. Acting on these emails without reference to the writer usually means an instant loss of funds with the very real likelihood that funds will never be recovered or the loss of private information which has the potential to lead to further losses.  

So what is a charity scam? - This is when a scammer pretends to be a genuine charity and directs you to donate to them via a particular account. According to Scamwatch as reported in October 2018, “So far in 2018 Scamwatch has received 689 reports of fake charities scams with more than $320,000 in reported losses. This compares to the whole of 2017 where reported losses were $313,563.” It is no secret that Australians are very generous when it comes to donations so it is really disappointing to see these scammers taking advantage of our good will. Fake charities operate in a number of different ways whether that be approaching people on the street, door to door tactics, fake websites that look similar to legitimate charity organisations and some even go as far as taking the form of a response to a real disaster or emergency that has occurred. 

As technology advances and scammers continue to prey on the unsuspecting, what can we do to help prevent this from happening?

  • Knowledge is power, but knowing is only half the battle. We must be vigilant, making sure we are aware of these methods and trust your instincts.
  • Ensure you have a good anti-virus program that is kept up to date to prevent unauthorised access  to your information
  • Make sure you have good policy and procedures in place around the use and security of computers, internet and passwords
  • Don’t click on links on social media or in emails from strangers
  • If it doesn’t seem right, most of the time you’re probably going to be right.

“Effective management procedures can go a long way towards preventing scams, so all businesses should firstly be aware these scams exist and that their staff know about them too,” says ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard. Remember just because we are a church organisation does not mean we won’t be targeted.

These illegal practices, work globally so we need to work together to help prevent this from happening to us. It all starts from the moment you login into your computer each day whether your computer is at home or in the workplace. If we all work collaboratively, making sure we are all on the same page when it comes to security or information then we can all work towards a safer future and the scammers will try an easier target other than the church.

For further information on any of these scams, you can visit https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/.