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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 2215


Mr LYONS (Bass) (16:35): I rise in the House today to speak about online scams and their repercussions in the community, particularly in my community of Bass. Online scams are everywhere and often go unreported. It is important to be alert and informed so you can spot a scam when you see one. Incidents of consumer fraud may not be reported for a number of reasons. For example, victims may not be aware that they have been scammed, not be aware of law enforcement interest, feel responsible for becoming a victim or not know to whom the scam should be reported.

Due to the anonymity of the internet, lying and scamming can be incredibly easy. If you are not careful, you can get scammed out of your time or even money. Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as sharing personal information. Scammers may take months to build what seems like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come. SCAMwatch report that once they have gained your trust they will ask you either subtly or directly for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. They will pretend to need these for a variety of reasons. For example, they may claim to be in the depths of despair due to financial hardship or the illness of a family member. In other cases, the scammer might start off by sending you flowers or other small gifts and then tell you about a large amount of money they need to transfer out of their country or that they want to share with you. They will then ask for your banking details or money to cover administrative fees and taxes to free up the money. I must warn people that this may be money laundering, which is a criminal offence. You should never agree to transfer money for someone else.

Regardless of how you are scammed, you could end up losing a lot of money. Online dating scams can cheat Australians out of millions every year. The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and, in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone who you thought loved you and was trustworthy.

I recommend that people follow the advice given by SCAMwatch, which is to talk to an independent friend, relative or fair trading agency before you send any money to anyone you meet online. Never give credit card or online account details to anyone by email. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam. Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. There is no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam. If you think you are 'too clever' to fall for a scam, you may take risks that scammers can take advantage of.

My Tasmanian Labor colleague Senator Catryna Bilyk is the Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety. I thank her for all her hard work in promoting cybersafety in Tasmania. Also, recently Australia formally joined 38 other nations as a party to the world's first international treaty on crimes committed via the internet. Becoming party to the convention ensures Australian legislation is consistent with international best practice. It enables domestic agencies to access and share information to facilitate international investigations and help countries in the region build capacity to address cybercrime.

I encourage all Australians to be educated about cybercrime and scams and to use common sense. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

On a final note, I also want to briefly touch on the other side of this debate. Sometimes relationships do blossom on the internet. However, the anonymity of the internet does pose a risk to both parties involved. The Australian government is working to ensure Australians and prospective Australians are protected in this era where relationships form online.

The family violence provisions, amended late last year, allow certain people applying for permanent residence in Australia to continue with their application after the breakdown of their married or de facto relationship, if they or a member of their family unit have experienced family violence by their partner. The provisions were introduced in response to concerns that some partners might remain in an abusive relationship because they believe they may be forced to leave Australia if they end their relationship. This is a sensible reform.

I encourage MPs to talk in their communities about online scams and encourage all Australians to be vigilant. (Time expired)