The number of victims of an alleged cyber-scam involving e-mail has been increasing at a rapid pace, according to a report by the Australian Privacy Foundation.
The report found that more than 30 per cent of victims had been contacted by someone offering to exchange personal information for bitcoin, the virtual currency.
The research, which examined 1.3 million e-mails between users of the online dating site Plenty of Fish, found that almost half (47 per cent) had been the victim of a scam in the last six months, while the remaining victims had received a letter offering to swap the e-money for bitcoins.
The victims in the report were mostly Australian citizens and businesspeople, and the report said they often had limited internet access or access to their bank accounts.
“When a victim is contacted by a scammer they often find it very hard to understand what the person in the email is telling them,” the report’s co-author and privacy advocate, Kate McAllister, said.
“Many victims don’t realise they’ve been the target of a fraudster.
It can be incredibly frustrating and confusing to them.”
The fraudsters can be very convincing and they’ll often ask for a ransom or an amount of money to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
“Victims often receive letters and emails with instructions for their money to be sent directly to the account.
Often, they don’t have a way to verify that the account has actually been used.”
In some cases, victims may not even know the identity of the person who is offering to transfer their money or the details of the account that has been compromised.
“Often victims receive false or misleading information from scammer email addresses and other forms of fraud, including a claim that the victim has a history of bad behaviour or fraud.”
Ms McAllisters group also flagged the issue of spam attacks on Australian websites, which it said could increase the number of people falling victim to online scams.
“Spam attacks are also increasingly occurring on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram,” the group said.”[This is] particularly troubling because social media is a powerful tool to send threats and manipulate people online.”
It can be especially frustrating for victims of these types of attacks to receive unsolicited emails or SMS messages that are seemingly from the same person or entity.
“In recent years, Australia has seen a significant rise in cyber-crime, with victims of the scam being targeted with phishing and ransomware.
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