No scam too tricky for Bundaberg's Hoax Slayer
THE saying goes fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
But Bundaberg's Brett Christensen went above and beyond to make sure he wasn't fooled a second time after falling victim to an online hoax in 2003.
"I hadn't had much to do with computers at that time and I got this silly virus hoax and passed it on and then someone told me it was a hoax," he said.
"I got interested in the topic and started checking it out and afterwards people started asking me if it was a hoax or not and it expanded."
From there he set up the online business Hoax Slayer, which he runs from his Bundaberg home, where he helps educate others by opening their eyes to scams and hoaxes lurking in the online world.
His website job description reads like a modern day saviour - debunks email and social media hoaxes, thwarts internet scammers and combats spam. With Australian's reporting losses totalling $85 million to ScamWatch last year, it's clear we need a hero like Hoax Slayer.
"It wasn't actually my intention to make a business out of this... but I make a full time living out of it now," Mr Christensn said.
"I write up articles about hoaxes or scams that I've come across or people submit them to me or post them on my Facebook page and I research them and write an article.
"There's a lot of Facebook survey scams at the moment."
Mr Christensen said the sophisticated Facebook scams took a copy of a real company's Facebook page and offered fake giveaways including cars or shopping sprees in return for shares and likes.
"They try to get as many page likes as possible and then they can sell that page on the black market to other scammers or they can re-purpose it for other types of scams," he said.
"The second part of it is you click a link and go to all these survey websites where they try to get your information. The people who make the scams get commissions for people who sign up."
But Mr Christensen said the really nasty scams were malware software. Often attached to legitimate looking emails disguised as a utility bill or invoices, once opened the malware downloads on the computer.
"There's a lot of ransomware, which is possibly one of the worst ones, because it locks up all the files on your computer," he said. "There's not really any way to get it back unless you pay a fee for the decryption key. It's pretty nasty and it's why it's essential to have back-ups."
Mr Christensen said the key to protecting yourself against scams and hoaxes was education.
"A lot of people don't even know the basic security skills they need to protect themselves," he said.
"You'd think people would not fall for these scams but they do because people have these gaps in their knowledge.
"It has nothing to do with their intelligence or education levels because I've talked to people that have been scammed from all different demographics.
"But that's what keeps me motivated to get this information out in a way people can understand."
For more information about Mr Christensen's work visit www.hoax-slayer.com.