Cybercrime and scams


Like the speakers before me, my community has been inundated by scam texts and messages. In fact, in a few recent school visits—it's that time of year in Victoria when the curriculum asks the teachers to talk about our democracy and the levels of government, so I'm often invited in to talk to students about those things—I take the opportunity while there to do a bit of a straw poll on what social things that children as young as grade 4 are aware of. The winner this year is scams.

Every kid that I've asked this question of, and for every class or group of 100 students that I've asked, 'Who's worried about scams?', the hands go up. These young people all have a story about someone in their family being hacked, being scammed, or about money being lost. When we see figures like $3 billion in the last 12 months, it's not a surprise if it's everyone and every family in my electorate that has been receiving these texts. As the member for Boothby said, if people in their busy lives see a text created with some urgency, they act. If a child's in trouble, you act—here's a solution. These scanners are clever. Not only have I got your number, not only do I know you've got a son, but I also know his name because I've hacked your phone and I'm going to set a text up where I not only create the urgent need but also create the solution in one simple text—click, send. They're targeting not only parents with stories about children but also mates. Your best friend sends you a supposed text message asking for financial assistance. There it is, on a busy day, saying they've lost $1000. I'll help fix that! I can fix that! I can be helpful! It's not a surprise when the member for Boothby sites that psychologists are involved in this. This is really clever. Clever, manipulative, criminal—that's what it is.

I'm pleased that our government is taking the action it can at this point in seeking more information for further changes—the first being the SMS Sender ID Registry to protect yourself. I read that and I had to go in and figure out what they're talking about.

What we are actually saying is that the scammers have become so good that they are copying the headers on the text messages that official trusted Australian institutions might use. They are copying those headers, so people who are accustomed to getting a text message from a particular institution, be it your bank, be it someone else, think it is them. Step one—clever—creating urgency. I can't tell you how many Linkt texts I've had in the last six months. Occasionally, they are persistent but they come spasmodically. Occasionally, I go, 'Is this a real one? Should I check?' Of course, as the previous member said, 'It's not real. I don't owe any money to the tolls,' but you would be surprised how many Australians believe they do, because people often have busy lives, take a toll road and think they will pay for it later. They then can't remember what day they did it or whether or not they paid for it.

Not just Linkt messages have I had. I've also had so many packages at the Alice Springs Post Office waiting for collection. I've lost count of the number of times I've had a package waiting. And do you know how I figured out it was Alice Springs? I googled it to find out where that post office was and went, 'I couldn't possibly have a package waiting for me in Alice Springs.' But I would have had 400 of those texts in the last 12 months, so they are persistent, they are consistent and it's not a surprise that Australians, with this psychological effort being made, are being drawn into them. I am pleased this government has made a commitment in the budget and that it has been the actions of this government to look at what can we do and to look at the types of scams. There are ways we can protect, like the ID registry, and then there is the educative part of this around educating Australians to being, quite bluntly, more cynical.

In an age where we are losing trust in our democratic institutions, maybe it's an age where we could get a bit smarter about the things we carry in our hands and the messages we are receiving from people. But the educative process will take a long time. I hope this hits the ground running, that we protect Australians and that we don't lose $3 billion in the next year.

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