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Money Hacks

New year, new habits: 6 tips to protect yourself from scams

Financial Wellbeing Coach

2024-01-15 00:00

Estimated reading time
7 min

In this article

  • Learn how scammers steal your personal information
  • 6 ways to protect your personal information
  • What to do if you get scammed

New year celebrations and holidays are a perfect time to let your hair down, but when it comes to protecting yourself from scams, unfortunately you can’t let your guard down!

The new year may be full of fun and festivities, but unfortunately scammers never stop for a break.  This time of year can be the perfect cocktail of distracted, relaxed and busy mindsets for cybercriminals to strike and steal your personal information. According to Scamwatch, between January and February 2023, there were over 57,000 individual reports on scams from Aussies across the nation, with reports typically peaking in January every year.

That’s why it’s important to defend your digital details and know how to identify a scammer. By using tough to crack passphrases, two-factor authentication and being super savvy with your online behaviour, you can help thwart the efforts of cybercriminals.

How can scammers steal your personal information?

One of the ways scammers can access your personal info is via phishing scams. They bait you with emails or texts that contain links. By completing a legitimate looking form or inputting login credentials, they can gain access to your passwords, account numbers and other personal details like your name, address and date of birth. With this information they can commit identity theft and gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts.

6 ways to protect your personal information

1. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

2FA may sound complex, but it’s super simple. It just uses a second factor to double-check that you’re really you when logging into your personal accounts such as banking, email or social media.

This extra layer of security may come in the form of a text code, a customer registration number or a biometric identification like a fingerprint scan.

So, even if a scammer guessed or stole your password, they still wouldn’t be able to access your information without a second form of proof of your digital identity.

2. Use passphrases over passwords

Embrace the power of passphrases! Criminals increasingly use technology to crack or guess passwords. Passphrases are easier for humans to remember, but harder for technology to crack!

Tips for creating a strong passphrase

Make your passphrases long and unpredictable. Never re-use passphrases across different accounts – uniqueness is key to securing your personal information from hackers. The Australian Cyber Security Centre recommends aiming for at least 14 characters and using a mix of random words like ‘purple duck potato boat’, or using words in another language like ‘hola muchacho potato gazpacho’. Have fun with it, as long as it’s memorable to you!  However, keep in mind different websites and services have varying requirements for length and complexity.

Password managers

Password managers are a great storage hub for your passwords and passphrases if you have lots to remember. They can also make random, complex passwords for you - no need to think of weird word combos yourself.

3. Turn on automatic updates

Keep your digital devices armed and ready by enabling automatic updates. Regular updates are critical to maintaining the security of your device and act as great ammunition against unauthorised access.

Cyber criminals hack into apps or systems by knowing their weaknesses. Regular software updates ensure any of these weaknesses are patched up immediately. By jumping into your device settings and flicking automatic updates on, your devices should help you to be armed with the newest and most secure software.

For more information on setting up automatic updates, check out Australian Cyber Security Centre’s useful guide.

4. Be social media savvy

Always keep your social media posts and privacy settings in check to guard your digital footprint.

It is important to be aware of the information on display in seemingly harmless photos or videos. Minimising the sensitive content about yourself that you put on social media is key to protecting yourself.

Seemingly benign details, like the place you work, photos with location details or your birthday, can be a gold mine for scammers. With these sorts of details, cybercriminals can develop a detailed profile of you to steal your identity.

You may consider using an alias, shortened name or, where appropriate, changing your profile settings to ‘private’ as simple but effective ways to protect your information.

5. Beware of unexpected messages

The best way to identify a scammer is to keep an eagle eye out for unexpected or strange messages, particularly those demanding urgent action, containing links or requesting personal info.

Common types of scams are impersonation scams where scammers will hit you up via phone call, SMS, email (phishing), social media or apps like WhatsApp. The scammers often claim to be a legitimate organisation like your bank, government organisation or internet service provider, or even a loved one, in a devious attempt to trick you into handing over your personal details or making a payment.

So stay sharp and be extra alert for verbal or digital requests for information or money!

6. Keep your email addresses private

Protect yourself from spam and malicious emails by not sharing your email addresses online unless you need to. If you do need to share your email addresses online, read the website privacy policy before doing so. This will tell you how they will use the personal information you provide. When you sign up for online accounts and services, be aware of default options to receive additional emails about other products and services and change these settings if you don’t wish to receive them.

As much as possible, have separate email accounts for personal and business use to avoid scammers having access to all your important information. Additionally, make sure your email accounts are set up to identify and filter spam emails. If it looks like spam, don’t open it and delete!

What to do if you get scammed

  • Call us immediately on 13 33 50.
  • If you believe you may have fallen victim to a scam on your ANZ card or account, follow the steps outlined on the ANZ Report bank fraud page.

For more resources

Visit the ScamWatch website for more information on scams.

Check out tips to protect yourself online at the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Keep up to date with the latest security alerts.

Read the ANZ Cyber Security - How to Bank securely brochure.

Remember, support is available

IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s free national identity and cyber support service. They can help you plan to limit the damage. Call them on 1800 595 160 or visit their website to find out more.

Being scammed is an unpleasant experience and it can happen to anyone. If you need someone to talk to, reach out to family and friends or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

New year, new habits: 6 tips to protect yourself from scams
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The information set out above is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, you should consider whether the information is appropriate for you having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. By providing this information ANZ does not intend to provide any financial advice or other advice or recommendations. You should seek independent financial, legal, tax and other relevant advice having regard to your particular circumstances.

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