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A message from an unrecognised email address or phone number. An urgent call to action. A suspicious-looking web link. A landing page where personal details must be entered.

These are the telltale signs of phishing, the most commonly reported scam in Australia.

Tens of millions of dollars are lost to phishing scams each year, and authorities say that figure is only increasing.

Here’s how scammers use “social engineering” to steal the savings of thousands of Australians every single year.

The anatomy of a phishing scam

Unlike scams such as the now-famous “Hi Mum”, phishing does not usually involve overt requests for money to be sent to an account.

Instead, a scammer will use subterfuge, doctored websites and carefully calibrated software scripts to persuade someone to give up their personal information.

In the cybersecurity space, this technique is known as “social engineering” because it relies on people’s typical emotions and behaviours.

The scam may be an email or text message that appears to be from an official company or organisation, like the Australian Tax Office or Netflix.

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