It was only going to be a matter of time before identity thieves would target their victims through scams on social networking site Facebook.

South Australian Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gail Gago has issued a warning statement for people about new methods of scams which she says are very advanced.

“Social media has played a role in enabling scammers to disguise themselves as legitimate companies or individuals to persuade victims to hand over money or personal details…With more consumers purchasing goods online, there now is a greater risk that a consumer could become a victim of identity theft. Scammers use this as an opportunity to offer non-existent goods ranging from puppy dogs to motor vehicles to con unsuspecting customers,” she says.

The Federal Government’s Stay Smart Online explains how scams are perpetrated on Facebook. They say when data is shared between people who know each other, there is a higher level of trust and fraudsters are taking advantage of this. They try and get victims to click on links or give over information. Ultimately the purpose is to generate revenue for the fraudsters; they may use a number of techniques including using malicious software to take control over your computer, and/or steal people’s information.

Not widely known, is just how far fraudsters may be able to go with the information they receive from their unsuspecting victims. Bank account or credit card details, when received in conjunction with the other information displayed on social networking sites like Facebook can end up being a recipe for disaster for people’s credit ratings.

Fraudsters may be able to use those details to take out credit in the victim’s name. Identity fraud can often go undetected, until the victim applies for credit and is refused due to defaults they had no idea about.

Credit rating defaults stick for 5 years, and for anyone who has lived with a black mark on their credit file, they are virtually banned from most credit for 5 years. This includes major credit through to mobile phone plans.

Just because someone claims to be a victim of identity theft, it doesn’t automatically guarantee they will have their good name restored. Lengthy negotiation with creditors often ensues, with the victim requiring copious amounts of evidence and usually police reports to prove the case of identity theft.

So it is important to heed the almost daily warnings of scams we hear about, in order to stay one step ahead of what can be a very damaging crime.

The Premier’s office cites these top five scams reported in South Australia for the last financial year:

Computer (PC) virus checks: An individual phones, claiming they are a certified computer engineer and convinces the consumer their computer has a virus. The consumer allows the scammer access to their hard-drive leaving personal details exposed.

• “Nigerian” and similar scams: Consumers are promised huge rewards if they help someone to transfer money out of their country by paying fees or releasing their bank account details.

• Overseas lotteries: Consumers receive a letter from an overseas lottery or sweepstakes company claiming the consumer has won money or prizes, and then asks the consumer to pay a fee to release the winnings, or to provide personal details.

• False billing (blowing): Targets small businesses who receive a bogus bill for a listing or advertisement of their business in a publication they never appeared in.

• Employment scams: Consumers are offered employment in non-existent markets. Scammers claim CVs will be considered upon payment of a fee to process the application, with the consumer usually not receiving a response and being left out of pocket.

Consumers are urged to report any suspected scam to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch website or call the information line on 1300 302 502.

We recommend all internet users subscribe to the government’s Stay Smart Online alerts for advice on new scams and viruses which may affect their computer and threaten their good name.

If people have already been a victim of a scam, and they want help with credit repair, contact MyCRA Credit Repairs. We permanently remove defaults from credit files.

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