Limestone Coast residents are being urged to take care when interacting with the digital world. Locals have been targeted by a raft of scams in recent weeks, with scammers claiming to be from Telstra, or people cloning social media sites, with Limestone Coast Local Service Area Officer in Charge Superintendent Phil Hoff encouraging people to report any suspicious activity.
“We always encourage people to report it to us,” Supt Hoff said. “The physical world has got a whole raft of laws set up to deal with the physical world, we are still catching up with the digital world, however the policies are becoming more and more defined.
“In recent times I can recall someone having lost money in the Limestone Coast trying to purchase a motor vehicle online for a price that seemed too good to be true. “Money parted ways and the car did not materialise. My message would be if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Supt Hoff said there had also been a puppy breeding scam circulating in the northern part of the region. “The cyber environment is one where it does surface every now and then – some people have unwittingly lost considerable amounts of money,” he said. “Someone just recently had eight instances where their credit card has been accessed for about 24 dollars per time.
“It was on a regular basis and the same outlet. Those sort of things say to us that either someone at a certain place has retained credit card details and are using it, or someone is doing it online. “We always want people to keep a good record of their financials, you might not miss one or two dollars, but if it is happening to hundreds of people.”
Supt Hoff said protecting identity was really important. “Just recently someone has reported a matter to us because they have been pursued by a debt collection agency after not paying a telecommunications bill for an account they have never established, but someone has established it in their name,” he said.
“When you leave your home you lock your door, you should take all the same security on the internet.” Supt Hoff said as the world became increasingly digitised, online scams were a “growth area”. “The digital age provides enormous advantages, but we have to be safe,” he said. “Because of the relative newness of the digital world people are still apt to make mistakes.
“If you are not sure about something do not do it – you are unlikely to ever win a lottery that you have not bought a ticket for and you are unlikely to have a rich relative or someone who wants to park their money in your account from Africa or some other part of the world.”
Supt Hoff also offered a warning about taking care when posting personal details on social media. “Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are a number of different things where people put up details about yourself, if you have not secured that information it’s easy to work out personal details, or if you are away on holidays which makes where you live more vulnerable,” he said.
“Someone can steal your identity and those matters become incredibly complex. “The other part about the cyber environment is personal safety and of course, it’s possible you do not know who is on the other end of a device. “On a regular occurrence we come across young people who have been groomed by people who want to do them harm. “We have children who unwittingly sexually exploit other people by posting photos online in states of undress and those sorts of things, which of course is very distressing for people.
There is the opportunity for bullying people, it is easier to do that in an anonymous environment. “There are a lot of foibles in the digital age but we cannot overlook the benefits. If we do it in an informed way and we take the necessary precautions then people are going to be generally safe.”