Nigerian phishing, flubots and princes: how to avoid online banking scams


Phone scams targeting the community are increasingly sophisticated. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

You’ve probably heard the theory that people are the weak link when it comes to cybersecurity, and that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

However, the reality is that scams are getting more and more sophisticated and more and more people of all ages and backgrounds are falling prey to them.

The director of the UNSW Institute for Cyber ​​Security, Nigel Phair, said that based on all the research he has done, anyone who clicked on a phishing link or responded to a scam didn’t think it was. was too good to be true.

“That’s why they did it,” he says. “They are educated people, but they still fall in love with these things.”

Nigel has worked in cybersecurity for 19 years, first with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) before making his way into IT consulting and academia. He is now also the director of Canberra Community Bank for the four local community branches of Bendigo Bank in ACT.

“We live and breathe online,” he says. “And online has provided so many opportunities in banking and finance. It’s just awesome.

But with opportunity comes risk.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has declared the week starting November 8 as National Scam Awareness Week, and Bendigo Bank is on board trying to spare its customers a world of injuries.

“Criminals are rational people – they want money,” says Nigel.


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“We always see letters from Nigerian princes and other basic scams, and we always see them because they work. But where the level of sophistication of criminals has increased is to continue to leverage trust in a known brand through what is known as “phishing”.

Nigel says the big calls right now when it comes to online banking and money are robocalls.

“Whether it’s a call claiming to be from the tax office, police, border forces, etc. “If you think about it, you might not fall for their trap. It’s all about the here and now.

As Christmas approaches, Nigel says we should expect to see an increase in questionable emails claiming to be from Australia Post and other courier companies trying to persuade you to click on links and disclose information. banking and other personal information.

Another big one is the “flubot”.

Nigel describes it as a text message or voicemail that requires you to download a questionable app on your device to access it.

“As we move into non-traditional banking products, these types of scams are going to proliferate,” he says.

Due to the scale of phishing already present, Nigel says banks have lost many ways of communicating with customers. For example, when a bank sends you a legitimate email, there’s a good chance you will think it is a phishing email and ignore it.

“Banks, from top to bottom, have to be very smart not only with what they send to their customers, but also with how they send it,” he says.


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In-app messaging is a smart way to work around this problem because the customer is already safe in the bank’s app and knows it is a trusted location. Many of these apps have their own built-in inbox.

Better safe than sorry in the case of an online banking scam because there is virtually no chance that you will see the money again. It’s an approach that Nigel says has to be second nature.

“When you go to Civic on a Friday night, you park your car, put your wallet or phone out of sight, lock it, and generally make it less of a target to enter,” he says.

“People need to take the same kind of thinking about online banking and think about how they can reduce their chances of becoming a victim. “

Nigel has three tips for avoiding online banking scams:

“Especially if you’re using a smart mobile device, make sure you turn on all security features,” he says. “If you have facial recognition for the device and the banking app, be sure to turn it on.

“The next one is to cut down on what people can see of you on social media. Criminals search social media profiles for personally identifying information. Lock all your security settings on your social accounts.

“They would be the big two and wouldn’t share the same password on multiple connections. Have a ‘passphrase’ with multiple words rather than a password.

For more information on how to secure your online banking, visit Bendigo Bank.


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