Community urged to be vigilant online with scams on rise

THE online community will celebrate Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, and Gladstone Police are encouraging the community to be more vigilant when online.

Gladstone Crime Prevention Officer Senior Constable Ann Jessop advised locals to "up" their online awareness, with an increase in opportunistic scams ensuring more chances for the unaware to be caught out when browsing the web.

"Dating and romance scams are on the increase targeting vulnerable singles, especially around Valentine's Day," Snr Const Jessop said.

"Always check the website address carefully before committing to any internet dating site."

She said while Gladstone residents were savvy when it came to online security, people should not let their guard down, as scammers became more creative in their attempts to cheat hard-working innocent people out of their money.

"Scammers use new technology to their advantage to come up with ways to steal your bank account information and your money," she said.

"A legitimate bank or financial institution will never ask you for your personal details online or over the phone.

"It is important to protect your identity so you don't reveal sensitive information to anyone, especially online."

Snr Const Jessop suggested simple rules, like not sending money to pay any fee you were uncertain of, and to install trusted protective software wherever possible.

When it came to children and their online behaviour, she said supervision was critical.

"Set the security high so that they cannot accidentally visit luring sites and never leave your child in a bedroom alone while they are connected to the Internet," she advised.

Snr Const Jessop pointed to a few tools for those concerned about online attack.

She listed Scamwatch, The Little Black Book of Scams published by the Commonwealth Government and fact sheets such as Identity Theft produced by the Queensland Police Service as reliable resources.

Most infamous online scams

  • Nigerian scams - where huge rewards are promised if you assist someone in transferring money out of a country by paying fees etc
  • Advanced fees paid for a guaranteed loan or credit card scam - where a "pre-approved" loan card often charges an up-front fee
  • False lottery scams - often promise huge winnings once one pays the "processing fee"

Ways to be safe, smart online

FACEBOOK was first designed as a platform to share moments with friends.

However as the social networking site expanded in how it was used, so too did issues of privacy, stalking and cyber bullying.

Users are encouraged to be familiar with privacy settings on Facebook, including options to share posts with friends only, or customising a certain list of friends for different posts.

However Wide Bay Social Media strategist Dan Willersdorf, who consults with Gladstone businesses on how to make the most out of online platforms, said both businesses and people should be mindful of what they post online, regardless of privacy settings.

"You can have different privacy settings and there is private messaging and things like that, but as a worst case scenario you shouldn't post anything that you wouldn't like to go public," he said.

Mr Willersdorf also warned against accepting strangers as friends despite some people thinking heaps of Facebook connections were a sign of popularity.

The Federal Government's Stay Smart Online campaign tips include not posting your date of birth, address, holiday plans or school.

FRIEND OR FOE: Tammy Stowe and Lochlan, 13, and Chloe, 16, who say protecting yourself against hackers is common sense.
FRIEND OR FOE: Tammy Stowe and Lochlan, 13, and Chloe, 16, who say protecting yourself against hackers is common sense. Mike Richards GLA100214INTR

Not smart to be careless online, say students

CHLOE and Lochlan Stowe are well aware of the dangers posed by their beloved smartphones.

"People can hack into your Facebook account and say bad things about you," Lochlan, 13, said.

Chloe, 16, a senior student at Gladstone State High School, said the best way to guard against hacking and unwelcome attention was to protect your devices with passcodes and log out of apps when you're done with them.

"I have a passcode on my phone and always log out of Facebook when I'm not using it," Chloe said.

"I'm very cautious about people touching my phone; even friends."

Chloe is only friends on Facebook with people she talks to in real life, but her brother said people he knows accept anyone's friend requests.

"People think the more Facebook friends you have the more popular you are, and they're just like 'oh add them'," he said.

Lochlan's advice to his peers is to use common sense to stay safe when using apps.

"Don't do stupid things or post silly things of yourself," he said.

Chloe and Lochlan's mother Tammy Stowe is concerned about cyber bullying and her kids stumbling upon online pornography.

"I've heard of predators on the internet," she said.

"I don't know how that happens but it's a concern."

Chloe and Lochlan are very open with her, Ms Stowe said, and at home their computer is in a space where it can be monitored.

Ms Stowe said the key to making sure kids use the internet safely was open communication at home.

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