‘A very worrying trend’: Australians lose over $2 billion to scams

Jul 04, 2022
People aged 65 and over reported the highest losses, with reported losses increasing with age. Source: Getty Images.

Despite government and law enforcement initiatives that have disrupted more scam activity than ever before, Australians still lost over $2 billion to scams in 2021.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Targeting Scams report, which compiled data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, major banks and money remitters, and other government agencies, reported losses of almost $1.8 billion. However, given that one-third of victims do not report scams the ACCC estimates the loss to scams totalled over $2 billion.

People aged 65 and over reported the highest losses, with losses increasing with age.

The most common way in which scammers targeted potential victims was via phone, with phone based scams making up 50 per cent of scams at a reported loss of $100 million. The top three scams causing the most financial harm were investment scams that cost Australians a combined loss of $701 million, followed by payment redirection scams that fleeced $227 million, and romance scams which accounted for a combined loss of $142 million for Australians.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said “scammers are the most opportunistic of all criminals”.

“Scam activity continues to increase, and last year a record number of Australians lost a record amount of money,” Rickard said.

“They [scammers] pose as charities after a natural disaster, health departments during a pandemic, and love interests every day.

“The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families, and businesses.”

Research conducted by the ACCC found 96 per cent of respondents had been exposed to scammers in the last five years, and 20 per cent had fallen victim to a scam. Unfortunately for those who lost money to a scam, 56 per cent were unable to recover any of their losses.

In an effort to minimise scam activity and raise awareness, the ACCC expanded its work with government agencies, domestic and international law enforcement, and major banks and telecommunications providers in 2021.

Despite the initiative, Rickard warned scammers are still finding ways to exploit Australians.

“The public and private sectors have introduced a number of new counter fraud initiatives over the last couple of years, but there are still too many gaps in the system that scammers are able to exploit,” she said.

The ACCC advises victims of scams should take up recovery processes with their banking institutions. They can report scams and learn more about how to get help on the Scamwatch website at scamwatch.gov.au.

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