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Fake bill scams show email’s insecurity

Friday, 12 May 2017
By Jake Nelson

An image of the fake email. Source: MailGuard

Scam emails masquerading as legitimate bills highlight the need for paper invoices, advocates say, as fake Origin Energy invoices target thousands of Australians with malicious software.

Origin has warned customers about the latest phishing attack, which began to hit Australian inboxes on Wednesday morning according to cyber-security firm MailGuard, and claims to be a bill from the energy company requiring immediate payment. However, seemingly legitimate links in the email instead download malware such as keyloggers onto the victims’ computers.

Kellie Northwood, Keep Me Posted

Kellie Northwood, executive director of advocacy group Keep Me Posted, says that email-based scams like these should send a message to service providers not to charge for paper invoices. “With the most vulnerable consumers being switched to electronic communications by their service providers without their consent or with the threat of being charged a fee for paper bills and statements, it is much easier for scammers to hit thousands of people,” she said.

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, 45 percent of scams were delivered via electronic means in 2016. These included fake bills claiming to be from companies including AGL, Telstra, Energy Australia and Optus.

Northwood says that email’s security vulnerabilities make a strong case for posted bills to protect consumers from fraud. “As long as companies can’t guarantee their customers’ safety online, mail remains the safest and most efficient way of communicating important information. Keep Me Posted is advocating for the consumer’s right to choose, for free, how they receive important information.

“Consumers should never have to pay a fee to protect themselves against scammers,” Northwood said.

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