Online Fraud

Reporter: Jackie Quist

We're under cyber attack like never before. "A very high number -- 10% of Australians -- have been victims of online fraud", said visiting online crime buster Tim Callan, from US cyber security giant VeriSign. "Australians are victims for almost twice the value of fraud as people in the UK", he added.

In the past 12 months alone, Tim claims Australians have lost $1.29 billion to online identity fraud. "That's a very high figure and that's something that we need to take very seriously", Tim said. Nichol Seveso returned from a holiday in Thailand to find her identity stolen and her credit card fleeced.

Nichol didn't use her card overseas but she used it here to book flights and accommodation online. Now she suspects one of the websites may have been infiltrated. "You're on the internet all day and you think that every website is safe. It makes me think any sort of personal details that I'm putting out there, how safe are they and its pretty eye opening", she added.

"As many as one in 70 websites is infected with some kind of malicious software and that's a very high frequency. When think about your average internet user - they're probably going to 70 websites in a month", Tim said. One in 10 Australians are falling victim to online ID fraud, losing on average $1000 each. Highly organised criminal gangs -- mainly from Eastern Europe or West Africa, -- will stop at nothing to steal your money. "The problem is we're using financial credentials that were designed for the offline world in the online space", said former Federal Police agent and FBI graduate, Alastair MacGibbon.

Alastair now heads the Internet Safety Institute and says, "The biggest example I've ever heard of was a guy called Alberto Gonzales in Miami who was arrested for compromising more than 140 million credit cards across a whole range of websites". From stolen credit cards to phony bank emails, to bogus apartment scams and fake goods for sale, online everything you own is at risk. Buying a secondhand Toyota online has left Nicola Hindmarsh fighting to clear her name. "I've given her my details thinking you know its just for the transaction of the vehicle", Nicola said.

But the seller stole the young mum's identity, nominating her as the driver of a speeding car Nicole has never driven. "That's definitely not me. I mean I've never owned a Toytoa Prado, I've never driven a Toyota Prado, I've never been to Sydney in the last 20 years and I've never met this woman in my life", Nicola said. "Using the internet is like driving a car -- if you do it well you can be very safe and if you do it poorly, you can be in a lot of danger", Tim said.

Tim says to stay safe online:

* Don't give out personal information.

* Be careful opening attachments as they may contain viruses.

* Use strong passwords containing letters, numbers and symbols -- and

change them regularly

* Delete suspect emails immediately.

* Use secure websites with lock icons and site seals

* If any online proposition sounds too good to be true … it probably is.

And while Nicole's bank did refund her stolen money its been an expensive lesson. "Don't go off the beaten track and think that everything's going to be safe, because its not", Nicole said.