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Fraudsters steal $50,000 from Queensland university

Fraudsters have stolen tens of thousands of dollars from a Queensland university, prompting a warning from the state’s auditor general Brendan Worrall.

The Queensland Audit Office revealed there had been an increase in external attempts to divert employee and supplier payments to illegitimate bank accounts across the sector.

Universities have been warned about increasing attempts to switch bank account details to gain access to employee and supplier payments.Credit:Reuters

In one case, Griffith University did not adhere to processes to independently verify requests to change existing supplier bank account details, resulting in a “small fraudulent payment” last year, an Audit Office report revealed.

A fraudulent request was made by an external source to change an existing supplier’s bank account details and divert payments to an illegitimate bank account.

Griffith University vice-president of corporate services Peter Bryant said an external supplier was hacked, resulting in a $52,000 loss last financial year.

“Griffith University takes fraud prevention very seriously,” he said.

“Last year, the university commissioned an expert review and adopted all recommendations to strengthen fraud prevention measures.

“New measures include improved staff training, business processes and additional bank account checks.”

The Queensland Audit Office recommended universities verify bank account detail changes for suppliers and employees through an independent source, not the person who requested the change.

In addition, the Audit Office found electronic funds transfer (EFT) files were not appropriately secured at Griffith University and the University of Southern Queensland.

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Losses from reported Australian hacking victims quadrupled in 2016: ACCC

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reported a four-fold increase in hacking scams, with AU$2.9 million lost to such activity in 2016, up from AU$700,000 in 2015.

According to Targeting scams: Report of the ACCC on scams activity 2016, businesses bore the brunt of these scams, with over half — AU$1.7 million — being attributed to businesses.

“While the digital economy presents many opportunities and efficiencies for businesses, it also presents significant risks,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says in the report’s foreword.

“Scams targeting businesses are becoming increasingly sophisticated using modern technology to make fake emails, invoices and websites appear legitimate to even the astute business person.”

While the digital age is hitting businesses in Australia, the report [PDF] highlights that consumers are also being affected by scammers, with digitisation providing the opportunity for scammers to try new tricks.

Online scams — those executed via the internet, email, social networks, and mobile apps — outnumbered phone-based scams in 2016, with an increase of 130 percent over 2015.

Elsewhere in the report, losses to online scams accounted for 58 percent — AU$48.4 million — of total losses, while social media was a particularly busy platform used by scammers to lure victims, netting losses of AU$9.5 million in 2016 compared with AU$3.8 million in 2015.

Of the social media scams, the most prevalent were related to online dating and sextortion, a form of blackmail in which compromising images of the victim are used to extort money.