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ACCC warns of email scam targeting small businesses

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned business to watch out for scam emails that claim to be from the ACCC but in fact contain links that can infect computers with malware.

In the past week, several businesses have reported receiving bogus requests from the ACCC to respond to a complaint that has been made about their business, or seek payment for an infringement notice for breach of copyright.

Both scams encourage the recipient to find out more by either clicking on a link disguised as a .pdf file or responding to contact details in the email. In the first scam, the embedded link is actually a .zip file that will download malware on to your computer or device.

“The ACCC is warning people that there are scammers trying to use the ACCC’s name to try and to steal money from businesses. People should be on the lookout for ransomware, which is a type of malware that freezes your computer and demands a ransom for you to be able to access your computer again. Scammers commonly ask for bitcoins or ask you to transfer money by wire transfer but even if you pay the fee, there is no guarantee that your computer will be unlocked,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

“Fortunately, no money has been reported lost from these particular scams to Scamwatch yet. The emails are easy to spot as fakes and you can avoid falling victim by checking the email address of the sender before clicking on any links.”

Scammers have been using email addresses such as @accc.govt.au or comm.dept@outlook.com(link sends e-mail). Australian government agencies do no use free web based email accounts like outlook.com and our emails end with .gov.au, not .govt.au.

If you hover your mouse pointer over links they will generally display the real address or file name. Zip and .exe files are easily disguised as pdf files but can contain malware.

scam-screenshot

Example of scam email

“Both of the scam emails circulating are simply addressed to a non-specific ‘Business Owner’ and may contain errors. If you unexpectedly receive an email from the ACCC, do not click on any links or respond to contact details provided in the email. Instead, independently source contact details for the ACCC through an internet search or phone book,” Dr Schaper said.

The ACCC advises small businesses to not click on any suspicious links in emails and check the sender’s address very carefully. If you think it is a scam, delete the email.

The watchdog also recommends business owners ensure they have up-to-date virus protection and firewall software installed, and regularly back-up your computer’s data on a separate hard drive.

Scams can be reported to the ACCC via the Scamwatch Report a Scam page.

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