Cyber fraud is on the surge as online usage becomes commonplace in the everyday transactions of individuals and small and large businesses.

Leading national boutique law firm Parke Lawyers has issued a warning that no one is immune from cyber-criminals, their convincing emails and phone calls, and their elaborate attempts to pocket cash and assets.

Parke Lawyers Managing Director and business law specialist Jim Parke says he is seeing cyber fraud and cyber-crimes increasing at an alarming rate.

For this reason, all Australians need to exercise extreme caution when dealing with emails or phone calls from people or organisations they don’t recognize.

If you have any concern, make sure you contact the organisation or business they purport to represent and double-check their credentials as well as the cause they are attempting to outline.

Be sure to use general, publicly available contact details you can obtain from an independent source, not a purported ‘direct’ telephone number or email address, which may be fake.

If you suspect you have been caught up in a cyber-crime, take appropriate steps with your financial institution immediately to cancel any payment you have made before it is too late.

Another important step is to contact your lawyer to determine what the best course of action to take,

As such, he said, it was important that the legal profession kept as up to date as possible with the ever-changing cyber-crime scene.

Some of the increasingly expert hackers are even purporting to represent professional firms and sending emails regarding matter types that clients may be involved in, such as property transactions. Others try to trick lawyers or accountants into facilitating large financial payments to reduce scrutiny of improper transactions.

These emails are often followed with phone calls. Some time ago, an employee of Parke Lawyers was targeted by scammers pretending to be from the Australian Taxation Office. With the help of a colleague and by making enquiries of the ATO directly he was quickly able to confirm it was a scam attempting to have him send money for a fake tax debt. Parke Lawyers recently advised a client who had been tricked into paying significant sums to a cyber criminal who pretended to be calling from her bank and had tricked her into making payment via internet banking.

Mr Parke advises people should follow these steps in financial or business dealings:

  • Understand – it can happen to you, no matter how big or small the amount is or how young or old you are;
  • Identify – don’t accept email requests to re-direct money on face value;
  • Verify – call the sender personally to check authenticity but use a number you know, not one suggested in the email;
  • Note – make a file note that you have made the call and confirmed the payment instructions;
  • Warn – if you are from a business, inform clients of how you accept payments and ensure they know to check details carefully. Individuals should warn other family members and friends, particularly those who may be vulnerable.
  • Double-check – involve a second person in the process and don’t action payment requests without proof of the verification, and note steps that have been taken.

Remember that if it sounds suspicious or too good to be true, then it probably is!