Practicing cyber safety

Child using computer

The past few months have seen most of us spending more time online than ever before. The increase in time spent in front of our laptops and devices for work, school, socialising and entertainment has also resulted in more Australians being affected by cybercrime and cyberbullying.

According to the eSafety Commissioner, 4 out of 10 Australians have had a negative experience online during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic. This has resulted in the Federal Government providing $10 million to the eSafety Commissioner to further boost online safety.

Scams by cyber criminals

The frequency of attacks by cyber criminals have increased significantly as they try to exploit the uptick in online activity by Australians.

The ACCC reported that those under 25 years old (or Gen Z) lost $5 million in reported scams in 2019 and $4.9 million so far this year. Younger Australians tend to think they’re tech savvy enough to not fall for scams but many are becoming victims as scams become more sophisticated.

The most common method is phishing, where scammers use email, phone or text message to lure people into providing sensitive data. The COVID-19 pandemic has been used as a way to confuse and frighten people, and scams relating to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is also increasing at this time of the year as people look forward to their tax refunds. Therefore, you should always be cautious and avoid clicking links or opening any attachments if you’re unsure.

Online shopping scams is another common method where scammers create fake online stores attempting to sell products that don’t exist. These scams are carried out using online and social media advertising to drive people to fake websites, or through fake online stores on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook Marketplace. Victims are often lured with unbelievably low prices or amazing benefits and end up paying money for fake items or nothing at all.


One in five young Australians have experienced cyberbullying, with a 40% increase in the number of reports to the eSafety Commissioner during the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown.

These have ranged from name-calling, nasty comments, death threats, taunting individuals hoping they die from coronavirus, and setting up fake memorials of individuals who supposedly died from COVID-19 but are still alive and well.

One serious case reported in the Sydney Morning Herald involved nasty messages, broadcasting hate on Instagram Live and hacking into the individual’s TikTok account to remove their followers.

Protecting your family during this period

Here are some things to consider to protect your family and practice cyber safety.

Be aware of scams

Keep an eye out on the latest scams on the ACCC’s Scamwatch website. You can follow their news and alerts, as well as report a scam if you come across one.

Keep your children safe online

The eSafety Commissioner has a very handy eSafety guide for parents. It offers advice for parents with children of all ages, such as what to consider before giving your child their first smartphone, what to do if your child is being cyberbullied and how to talk with your children about the possible consequences for sending nudes.

Due diligence before purchasing online

You can reduce the risk of losing money to an online or social media shopping scam by searching for reviews before purchasing. The old adage, 'If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is', should be front of mind. One other way to detect a scam is if the website uses a non-conventional method of payment like money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

Reducing coronavirus anxiety

Anxiety can make it harder for you and your family to be alert for scams. Avoid getting caught up in the hype and fear by choosing a couple of reputable sources for your news instead of relying on social media to avoid false information and unscientific claims. It can be easy to overload on COVID-19 news since it’s everywhere so try turning off your notifications and limit how much time you spend online.

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