The recent data breach from Optus has put the security of personal information at the forefront of everyone’s mind. While anyone who has been a customer of Optus is rightly concerned, the reality is that data breaches are not uncommon, and there are many other methods cyber criminals use to steal personal information for their own financial gain. Your best defence is to try and stay one step ahead, and in this article, I’ve shared some ways to protect yourself.
Everything online these days requires passwords, from simple things like reading the news to all your banking. Keeping track of passwords is hard enough, let alone keeping them secure. Some suggestions on how to safely manage your passwords are as follows:
- Use strong, unique passwords and change them if you believe they may have been compromised.
- Passwords for banking should not be used for other sites that may be less secure.
- Adopt two-factor authentication for your important accounts to add an extra layer of security (for example, needing to enter a code sent to you via text or an app on your phone to verify your identity).
- Consider using password management software such as Last Pass or within computer virus protection software such as Norton, both can generate and save random passwords that can easily be used.
Online and Phone Scams
Scammers these days are highly organised and sophisticated, with attempts to steal your personal information usually happening daily. Most are blocked by security software on our computers, but many still get through, and anyone with your name and phone number can call and have a go. You must always be vigilant and protect your personal information, some critical ways to prevent you from becoming a victim of fraud include:
- Think before you share information on social media, especially personal information such as birthdays, addresses, bank accounts etc.
- Be aware of phishing emails and don’t click on them – always check the sender’s email address as it’s unlikely to accurately resemble the name of the organisation it is claiming to be.
- You may receive scam phone calls even if you have a private number or are registered on the Australian Government’s Do Not Call Register.
- Never disclose your personal information, financial account, or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and got the number from a reliable source.
- Never allow someone who randomly contacts you over the phone to direct you to log in to your computer – it’s common for scammers to pretend to be from Telstra or the NBN to gain access to your computer and transfer money from your bank account.
- Install anti-virus software on your computer and keep it updated to reduce the likelihood of being impacted by viruses and malware.
Identity theft is where an imposter obtains key pieces of personally identifiable information such as driver’s license numbers, address, date of birth etc., to impersonate someone else. The recent Optus data breach will likely make those affected more susceptible to identity theft. Identity theft, can manifest itself at any time and allow criminals to do a range of things, including:
- Apply for credit in your name;
- Apply for new services such as a mobile phone; and
- Pretend to be you to their benefit.
Identity theft can be hard to pick up before it’s too late, but some valuable tips on how to be on the lookout are as follows:
- Check your bank and credit card accounts – sometimes, they start with a small random amount and then build.
- Place a smaller transfer limit on your accounts.
- Subscribe to a credit file alert service that will message you if your credit file is being checked as an early warning to shut down fraudulent applications. Equifax provides this service at a cost starting at $9.95 per month (highly recommended).
If you are concerned that your identity may have been compromised or you have been a scam victim, contact your bank immediately and call IDCARE on 1800 595 160. IDCARE is Australia’s national identity and cyber support service, to get expert advice from a specialist identity and cyber security service. Optus has set up a page at www.optus.com.au/support/cyberattack to keep customers informed of the recent data breach. You can also report scams to Scamwatch at www.scamwatch.gov.au and check cyber.gov.au for information about cyber security.
Finally, if something does not feel right, follow your gut instinct, and say no to the person on the phone asking for information or hit the delete button on that suspicious email!
The information provided should not be considered personal financial advice as it is intended to provide general advice only. The content has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situations or needs. You should seek personal financial advice before making any financial or investment decisions.