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Cybercriminals are always finding new ways to extort money from unsuspecting internet users. In the recent days, Australian internet users are being targeted over Facebook by scammers posing as government employees.

According to reports on Australian news media platforms, the cybercriminals are impersonating representatives from big brands, government agencies, utilities and telecom companies and even the taxation department. The scammers are said to be leveraging technology to send out mass mailers and make calls in bulk over VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), targeting potential victims.

Scammers impersonating representatives from the Australian Taxation Office have allegedly collected over $1 million from various residents in the form of iTunes gift cards. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the victims were asked by scammers to buy and share iTunes gift cards and other prepaid cards worth thousands of dollars each, to settle tax debts. The victims were threatened of consequences, including arrest if they don’t follow the instructions.

The total losses due to similar scams during the year is said to be somewhere around $70 million, out of which Bitcoin payments make a considerable chunk. The government and law enforcement agencies are trying hard to contain these scams, ranging from the impersonation of government agents, investment schemes, dating and romance scams etc. But the criminals are always a step further, coming up with new ways to defraud people, using innovative payment methods.

Ransomware attacks also figure in the list of scams, where criminals infect the computer with malware that encrypts the contents. In order to gain the decryption key, the victim is forced to pay a ransom in bitcoin. By October last year, the total number of scams reported in the country stood at over 134,000. In the light of increasing scams, internet users are advised to follow safe browsing practices and to conduct a thorough background check before investing or sending money in any form to anyone.

when dealing with anyone claiming to be from a government department, it is advisable to verify and report such individuals to the concerned department. Government institutions and tax office never ask individuals to settle their tax debts in the form of prepaid cards or bitcoin.

Ref: 9News | Image: Shutterstock