Online security has been a hot topic of conversation for a long time now, but it’s certainly ramped up over the past 12 months.

High-profile breaches at Medibank and Optus have resulted in a huge number of Australians’ data and personal information being stolen and appearing on the ‘dark web’ – and, as a result, scam attempts are becoming increasingly frequent.

“Over recent months, we’ve seen online scams escalate significantly,” says David Jackson, Partner at Fennell West. “It’s vitally important to be on guard whenever you’re online and treat every call, text message and email with suspicion. In some cases, people are being tricked into handing over their life savings, and once the money is gone, it can be very difficult – if not impossible – to get back.”

With that in mind, we’ve collected our top 10 tips to help you maintain safety online.


Ten tips to keep you safe online

  1. Stop and think

An obvious one to begin with – but whether you’ve received a phone call, SMS or email, always stop and think before you click on a link or disclose any information. ‘Could this be a scam?’ is always a good question to ask yourself. If you’re at all uncertain, stop. Banks will never ask you to share your password, PIN, one-time password or credit and debit card details. And they’ll NEVER ask you to transfer funds to another account.

  1. Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls

If you receive a call purporting to be from your bank, always ask for a reference number and call them back using the phone number publicly listed on the website – not a number you’ve been given by the person on the other end of the phone. Banks may well call you for a valid reason. However, they will always be happy for you to call them back to ensure you’re speaking to a genuine representative. Some smartphones have the option to ‘silence unknown callers’ which immediately sends numbers that aren’t saved in your contacts to voicemail. This can be a good option for some people, as genuine callers will often leave voice messages, or attempt to contact you in another way.

  1. Always be suspicious of unsolicited SMSs

Fraudsters are able to send SMSs that will appear to be from the same source as genuine banking messages. They’ll appear in the same chain as genuine messages, but it’s important to remember banks will NEVER include a link for you to click on.

  1. Always be suspicious of unsolicited emails

In the same vein, banks will never email you with a link to click on – they’ll always ask you to log in to your online banking of your own accord. Also, never click on attachments from emails unless you’re 100 per cent certain they are from an authentic source. Those attachments can give hackers access to your computer.

  1. Use strong, unique passwords

To keep your online accounts secure, it’s important to have strong passwords – the longer the better, containing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and ideally, no dictionary words or personal information. There are a number of password management tools available, however, while their cybersecurity is usually very good, they’re not infallible – one of the market leaders, LastPass, recently admitted they’d been hacked, too.

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication

Many websites and apps you use will offer two-factor authentication. What this means is that you’ll be asked to input a code that’s either emailed or texted to you or generated by an authenticator app on your phone. To maintain security, this is a smart thing to do – the extra step may take an additional 20 seconds but it’s worth it.

  1. Keep your systems up to date

Your phone, tablet and computer offers regular updates to keep everything working as smoothly as possible – and these updates regularly include security upgrades. Make sure you’re using the latest software to keep your devices safe.

  1. Check your accounts regularly

Of course, you may fall victim to a banking fraud and not even realise it. Check your accounts daily if you have online banking, and make sure you know what every transaction is. If something suspicious crops up, make sure to report it as a matter of urgency.

  1. Limit what you share on social media

Social media’s a place where many people naturally overshare – but be cautious about who you’re giving access to. Lock down your social media so only genuine friends and family can see the content you’re sharing, and think twice about sharing too much information, anyway. Fraudsters will harvest data to build up information about people, and whatever you share online could well end up coming back to hurt you.

  1. Only shop with reputable, secure stores

When making purchases online, shop with retailers you’re familiar with and only those that have a ‘secure’ site. This will be signified by their web address starting with ‘https’, and will often have a locked padlock displayed too.

Of course, despite all of your best efforts, you may fall victim to a scam. If you do, time is critical. Immediately call your bank to block your accounts, and report scams to Scamwatch.