House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022



7:50 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've all seen the high-profile cybertheft stories regarding Optus and Medicare, and unfortunately that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm receiving increasing reports from people who've been scammed—losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, people losing their life savings. And recently I was contacted by a service business which uses a lot of heavy equipment. Within their company structure, they have a designated company, a separate company, to manage their purchases and sales, and they have had the identity of that company stolen. Consequently, a criminal has been selling non-existent machinery to online customers, and when the item does not arrive the victims are tracing the links back to the parent company, which until very recently was completely unaware that anyone had even stolen their identity. You can imagine how stressful this has been for them.

People would think that this should not happen to them. The scams are sophisticated and completely believable. Many of us have more passwords than we could commit to memory, so we have a little list somewhere. I recently heard a terrific presentation on these matters at an Adelaide Plains business breakfast and was convinced to install a password manager on my phone. It's not so hard. It just takes a little time transferring information, but nothing like the time and stress that accompanies a theft of the list, either hard copy or cyber.

Every eight minutes a cyberattack is reported in Australia, a 13 per cent increase on prepandemic levels, and Australians lost more than $2 billion to scams in 2021. Scammers are the most opportunistic of all criminals. They pose as charities after a natural disaster, health departments during a pandemic and love interests every day. If you detect a scam, regardless of whether you have lost money or not, please, for others' sake, report it. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner runs, and it is a good site. People can also subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts to keep up to date with advice for avoiding the latest scams affecting the community.

Sadly, I can also report on a mid-north farming business that was scammed out of $270,000 in one day. The business was contacted by phone by people claiming to be the Australian Tax Office—a very slick operation. They convinced the farm principal that their accounts were being hacked and that they needed to transfer the money immediately to a trust account operated by the ATO. The farmer shouldn't have fallen victim to it, but he did. Investigations have revealed that almost as soon as the money went into the account it was gone again. The crime has been reported to police, who have worked hard to try to track down the criminals. It's also been referred to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. While I've not seen that report, the bank from which the money was removed—and I shall name them; it's Rabobank—have informed me that the preliminary report shows that the bank bears no responsibility for the loss and that their electronic and educational systems are of appropriate standing.

I've had some long conversations with Rabobank, I must say, and attempted to convince them that maybe they should share some of the losses. However, they maintain that to do so would set precedence, which would ultimately be counterproductive. I've come to the conclusion that this is a fair argument, which I find I have to accept. One might ask why I raise the connection at all and why I've named the bank. But I tell the story just to reinforce to people that, if an individual makes a mistake and it's their error, they're on their own. There isn't really anyone that's going to pick up the pieces for them.

The important warning is to not take a blase attitude. She won't be right, mate. You are on your own. The message to Australians is that they should be concerned, and, if they've not had recent advice on digital security, they should get that advice immediately and act on that advice because we are all potential victims in this outbreak of scams. We all have to take special individual care. I will keep working with those people who are affected, of course, and doing what I can, but, really, the most important thing I can do now is try and put the warning out there. Don't think you're too smart for this to happen to you. We can all be sucked in.