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The “realistic” tricks hackers are using to steal your savings

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ANZ Bank

In the realm of cybercrime, phishing stands as a nefarious and pervasive threat, defrauding savers of millions of dollars annually.

This insidious tactic, driven by social engineering, preys on human emotions and behaviors, proving alarmingly successful in coaxing personal information from unsuspecting victims.

Phishing, A Deceptive Art

Distinguished from overt monetary requests, phishing operates in a more covert manner, exploiting emotions and employing meticulously designed websites and software scripts to manipulate individuals into divulging their private details. This craft is what cybersecurity experts term “social engineering,” leveraging human psychology to orchestrate deception.

The modus operandi of phishing often begins with an email or text message that masquerades as communication from a legitimate entity, such as the Australian Tax Office or popular streaming services like Netflix.

These communications, often accompanied by a sense of urgency, compel recipients to swiftly address an issue with their account or reaffirm their contact details.

Subsequently, victims are directed to counterfeit websites, skillfully mimicking the look and feel of authentic platforms.

Crafting this facade requires phishing kits, available for purchase ranging from $10 to $1,000. These kits equip scammers with the HTML elements and scripts to create these deceptive landing pages.

Manipulation of Human Behavior

Phishing’s success hinges on manipulating human behavior through an intricate blend of urgency, emotion, and deception. Urgent demands for action, such as paying a purported tax debt or reactivating a suspended bank account, employ fear and impulsive thinking to bypass rational decision-making.

Research by Ofir Turel, professor of information systems management at the University of Melbourne, reveals that sleep deprivation, trust in the scam source, and loneliness elevate susceptibility to phishing.

However, emotional manipulation extends beyond fear. Scammers exploit positive emotions too, like enticing the success of the Matildas with fake websites peddling discounted tickets to Women’s World Cup games.

The Pervasive Impact

The prevalence of phishing in Australia continues to escalate. In 2022, Scamwatch reported 74,573 phishing-related complaints, a 4.6% increase from the previous year.

Victims often fall prey to meticulously designed emails and text messages, lured into divulging sensitive information on counterfeit websites that mimic genuine organizations. Financial losses from phishing in 2022 exceeded $157.6 million, yet this figure remains a mere fraction of the actual toll due to under-reporting.

The Complexity of Countermeasures

Fighting back against phishing poses formidable challenges. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have endowed scammers with tools to create convincing scams with flawless grammar and code. Consequently, detecting scams through errors or typos is no longer a foolproof strategy.

Regrettably, scams are chronically under-reported.

While the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission notes that $3.1 billion was lost to scams in 2022, a mere $21 million was compensated by major banks.

Nonetheless, efforts are underway to fortify consumer protection. Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones asserts that forthcoming industry codes of practice will demand accountability and compensation from financial institutions.

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Money

US energy stocks surge amid economic growth and inflation fears

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Investors are turning to U.S. energy shares in droves, capitalizing on surging oil prices and a resilient economy while seeking protection against looming inflationary pressures.

The S&P 500 energy sector has witnessed a remarkable ascent in 2024, boasting gains of approximately 17%, effectively doubling the broader index’s year-to-date performance.

This surge has intensified in recent weeks, propelling the energy sector to the forefront of the S&P 500’s top-performing sectors.

A significant catalyst driving this rally is the relentless rise in oil prices. U.S. crude has surged by 20% year-to-date, propelled by robust economic indicators in the United States and escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Investors are also turning to energy shares as a hedge against inflation, which has proven more persistent than anticipated, threatening to derail the broader market rally.

Ayako Yoshioka, senior portfolio manager at Wealth Enhancement Group, notes that having exposure to commodities can serve as a hedge against inflationary pressures, prompting many portfolios to overweight energy stocks.

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Energy companies

This sentiment is underscored by the disciplined capital spending observed among energy companies, particularly oil majors such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Among the standout performers within the energy sector this year are Marathon Petroleum, which has surged by 40%, and Valero Energy, up by an impressive 33%.

As the first-quarter earnings season kicks into high gear, with reports from major companies such as Netflix, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble, investors will closely scrutinize economic indicators such as monthly U.S. retail sales to gauge consumer behavior amidst lingering inflation concerns.

The rally in energy stocks signals a broadening of the U.S. equities rally beyond growth and technology companies that dominated last year.

However, escalating inflation expectations and concerns about a hawkish Federal Reserve could dampen investors’ appetite for non-commodities-related sectors.

Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel Corp., highlights investors’ focus on the robust economy amidst supply bottlenecks in commodities, especially oil.

This sentiment is echoed by strategists at Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets, who maintain bullish calls on energy shares, citing heightened geopolitical risks and strong economic fundamentals.

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Money

How Australians lose nearly $1 billion to card scammers in a year

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A recent study by Finder has unveiled a distressing trend: Australians are hemorrhaging money to card scams at an alarming rate.

The survey, conducted among 1,039 participants, painted a grim picture, with 2.2 million individuals – roughly 11% of the population – falling prey to credit or debit card skimming in 2023 alone.

The financial toll of these scams is staggering. On average, victims lost $418 each, amounting to a colossal $930 million collectively across the country.

Rebecca Pike, a financial expert at Finder, underscored the correlation between the surge in digital transactions and the proliferation of sophisticated scams.

“Scammers are adapting, leveraging sophisticated tactics that often mimic trusted brands or exploit personal connections. With digital transactions on the rise, it’s imperative for consumers to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their financial assets,” Pike said.

Read more – How Google is cracking down on scams

Concerning trend

Disturbingly, Finder’s research also revealed a concerning trend in underreporting.

Only 9% of scam victims reported the incident, while 1% remained oblivious to the fraudulent activity initially. Additionally, 1% of respondents discovered they were victims of bank card fraud only after the fact, highlighting the insidious nature of these schemes.

Pike urged consumers to exercise heightened scrutiny over their financial statements, recommending frequent monitoring for any unauthorised transactions.

She explained the importance of leveraging notification services offered by financial institutions to promptly identify and report suspicious activity.

“Early detection is key. If you notice any unfamiliar transactions, don’t hesitate to contact your bank immediately. Swift action can mitigate further unauthorised use of your card,” Pike advised, underscoring the critical role of proactive measures in combating card scams.

As Australians grapple with the escalating threat of card fraud, Pike’s counsel serves as a timely reminder of the necessity for heightened vigilance in an increasingly digitised financial landscape.

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Money

Workers rush back to their desks over job fears

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Workers across Australia are rushing back to their desks, driving office utilisation rates to their highest levels since February 2020.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays emerge as the busiest in-office days, contrasting with the continued reluctance to return on Fridays.

This insight, drawn from XY Sense data based on 18 enterprise customers in Australia employing approximately 68,000 individuals across 127 buildings, reflects a significant shift in workplace dynamics.

The surge in office attendance coincides with a resurgence in workplace attendance mandates and policies linking physical presence to bonuses and performance reviews.

However, co-founder of XY Sense, Alex Birch, suggests that rising job insecurity, rather than these policies, primarily drives this behavioral shift.

“The pendulum has moved towards the employer, and therefore people feel more obliged to go back into work,” commented Mr. Birch.

Job market

Danielle Wood, chairwoman of the Productivity Commission, anticipates this trend to persist as the job market softens.

She notes a disparity between employer and worker perceptions regarding the productivity benefits of hybrid work arrangements, hinting at potential shifts in the employment landscape.

Meanwhile, economists at the e61 Institute observe a partial reversal of the pandemic-induced “escape to the country” trend.

Rent differentials between regional and capital city dwellings, which narrowed during the pandemic, are now widening again.

This trend suggests a diminishing appeal of remote work options and a return to urban commuting.

Aaron Wong, senior research economist at e61, said the emergence of a “new normal,” characterised by a hybrid lifestyle that blends access to office spaces with proximity to lifestyle amenities such as natural landscapes.

While regional rents decline, rents for homes on the urban fringe surge, reflecting evolving preferences shaped by remote work opportunities.

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