Sam Shepherd wanted to buy his girlfriend a laptop for her birthday, but instead lost a week’s wage to criminals looking to make a quick buck on Facebook.
- NSW Police say murders and robberies are decreasing while cybercrime is on the rise
- Cyber criminals use anything from unsolicited emails to legitimate sites like Facebook
- A NSW woman last year became the first person to be charged over alleged crypto-currency theft
The 19-year-old, who works as a full-time barista, found a second-hand MacBook Pro for $1,300 on Facebook Marketplace, a shopping website similar to eBay.
He made a bank transfer to the seller, but his nice gesture instantly backfired.
“I was chatting to a woman on Facebook Marketplace and she referred me to a website,” he said.
“A man provided me with an ABN and all these details — so it seemed legit. But once I handed over $1,300, he blocked me and I lost all that money.”
While Mr Shepherd considers himself tech savvy, the majority of cybercrime victims are aged between 20 and 39, mainly targeted through email and social media.
New South Wales Police set up its first cybercrime squad just over a year ago.
The number of arrests more than doubled from 35 at the end of 2017, to 73 at the end of 2018.
Detective Superintendent Matt Craft said criminals were increasingly moving off the streets and on to computers, with traditional crimes like armed robberies falling across the state.
“A traditional offender no longer has a balaclava and a shotgun, but rather they have a laptop and a briefcase — it’s never been more important to make sure your personal details are kept confidential,” he said.
“It’s also really vital that people report cybercrimes to police — we know that most of the time, people are too embarrassed to speak up, but it’s the only way we can stop more attacks.”
Crypto-currency arrests break new ground
In the first three months of 2017, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) received 11,775 reports, and the number increased to 14,189 at the start of 2018 — a rise of around 20 per cent.
Cybercrime safety tips
- Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date
- Use a strong password with letters and numbers
- Never click on links in suspicious emails
- Report all scams to police or ACORN
The reporting of cybercrime to police led to Katherine Nguyen, 23, becoming the first person in Australia to be charged over the alleged theft of crypto-currency last October.
The university student from Epping is accused of stealing almost half a million dollars’ worth of Ripple after locking a 56-year-old man out of his email for two days.
“That victim came to police and we were able to achieve a result and identify who was responsible for that online behaviour,” Detective Superintendent Craft said.
He said the most common scam at the moment involved people clicking on links in unsolicited emails.
“It might be an email saying you’ve won a holiday — click on this link, or a scare tactic where a fake email from your bank asks you to click on a link to sort out a problem. Never do this.
“What you should do is call your bank or energy company to verify the email instead, and if it’s not legitimate call police and we’ll have no problem tracking the criminal down.”
Mr Shepherd reported the Facebook scam to police, and as he awaits a result, he hopes his story encourages more people to speak up.
“Education seems to be key here — the more people talk about being scammed, the better protected we become because we know what’s out there,” he said.