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Threats and Extortion

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We should all be able to feel safe in our own homes. Unfortunately, there are increasing numbers of sophisticated scams that target people at home, where the victim is contacted to demand payment for protection from a ‘threat’.

The threat has been created by the fraudsters themselves through ‘malware’ (malicious software) that infects the victim’s computer, or by unsolicited phone calls, which falsely accuse the victim of wrongdoing. These scams can be very convincing, so it’s important to understand how to spot them and therefore how to protect yourself from them.

Ransomware

Ransomware is software that locks a computer and holds it captive while demanding a ransom. Ransomware may encrypt files or lock a computer completely, then display messages intended to coerce the victim into making a payment to regain access.

These files are often installed on computers when the victim clicks on links such as downloading free media or gaining access to adult sites. Once the malware has downloaded, there may be a delay until the locking mechanism is deployed. By the time a pop-up appears telling the user their data has been locked, it can be too late to activate security measures.

Prevention is possible by following cybersecurity precautions:

  • Use up-to-date antivirus software,
  • Keep all other software on your computer up-to-date to ensure security loopholes are closed.
  • Don’t download pirated media files.
  • When downloading any file, always check the file type before installing. A file ending .exe means that it is an ‘executable file’ which will run a process on your computer – possibly installing ransomware.
  • Be cautious about all incoming messages, even from people you know and trust. Accounts can be compromised as malicious links are frequently sent from email addresses or social media accounts that you may know.
  • Be extremely cautious when opening attachments in any email, even if it appears legitimate. Scammers often distribute malware in emails or text messages that appear to be notifications from a bank or Government agency like the ATO. If you receive an attachment in an email, check the organisation’s website, where the same information should be found. Do not click any links in an email you receive – type the address into your web browser instead, then find the information directly from the source.

Legal threats

Legal threats involve scammers informing people they have broken a rule or a law and demanding money to resolve the situation. The threat of sending police or border protection officers is often used to encourage victims to pay quickly. These scams often target the elderly or newly-arrived migrants, who may be less likely to challenge the credentials of someone contacting them.

Types of legal threat extortion include:

  • Fake tax debts, where a pre-recorded voice message is sent, demanding immediate payment of a tax debt and threatening immediate arrest.
  • Visa holders receiving a phone call from an individual posing as an immigration official who claims that the date of birth recorded on their application is incorrect and needs to be updated for a cost. The caller claims that the visa holder will be deported if they don't make this payment.
  • Scammers claiming to be from energy or telco companies, claiming that accounts are overdue and threatening to cancel a service or charge you excessive penalty fees if the bill isn’t paid immediately.

These scams rely on pressure and intimidation to work. If you receive a threatening call, hang up immediately. If you feel that the call could have been because of a legitimate reason, call the relevant organisation using the number on their website.

Never send money or give credit card details, account details or personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust by email or over the phone.

If you have been targeted by a scam relating to your Qudos account, visit our webpage Reporting Scams to find out who to contact.

  Disclaimer:

Qudos Mutual Limited trading as Qudos Bank ABN 53 087 650 557 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238 305. The information in this article is of a general nature and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.