AusCERT 2012: Fear of ridicule causing online scams to go unreported

Queensland Police says scammers are winning because people fear ridicule if they report that they have been the victim of online crime

Queensland Police Detective Superintendent , Brian Hay.

Queensland Police Detective Superintendent , Brian Hay.

Online scammers will continue to target Australian consumers because most victims are too embarrassed to report scams to law enforcement agencies, according to Queensland Police Detective Superintendent, Brian Hay.

Speaking at AusCERT on the Gold Coast, Hay told delegates that people viewed scam victims who sent money overseas to fraudsters or to scammers on internet dating websites as “stupid or greedy” and this was incorrect.

“People get excited by a business opportunity or when they think someone loves them,” he said. “Decisions made on the internet are based on emotions rather than rational decisions and when people are the victim they don’t want to deal with the embarrassment of being thought of as stupid.”

He added that most people tended to make fun of the victim rather than sitting down with the affected person and looking at ways they could learn from the mistake. Hence, the victim felt the scam was their fault and the crime went unreported.

“We give them a kick and drive the problem underground,” he said.

According to Hay, victims were also taken in because of the sophistication of scammers’ operations. For example, cybercriminals were using Google ad words, issuing fake media releases and paying for advertising banners on legitimate sites before targeting victims in the hope of convincing them the operation was legitimate.

To help combat the scammer problem, Hay suggested a series of initiatives including increased scrutiny of seemingly legitimate websites/ deals and website report cards.

“If dating websites had to report every month how many romance fraud victims were on their site, they would crack down on the scammers much more quickly,” he said.

Hamish Barwick travelled to AusCERT 2012 as a guest of AusCERT

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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