Aussies scammed out of more than half a billion dollars in 2019, says ACCC

Jun 22, 2020
The ACCC released its latest scam activity report. Source: Getty.

Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your hard-earned cash as a new report has revealed Australians lost more than half a billion dollars to scams in 2019. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) latest Targeting Scams report, consumers were cheated out of $634 million last year — which is up $145 million on the previous year.

“Unfortunately, it is another year with devastatingly high losses, and scammers are constantly finding new ways to defraud Australians,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said. “This year we have included data from the big four banks which gives a more complete picture of how much people are losing to scams.”

A whopping 353,000 reports were submitted to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, other government agencies and the big four banks last year. The most financially devastating of those reported were business email scams accounting for a recorded loss of $132 million. This was followed by investment scams at $126 million and dating and romance scams at $83 million.

Rickard said online criminals over the last decade have gotten more creative and have started using the chat function on social media apps or games to target unsuspecting victims. In fact, the latest figures found scams originating on social media increased by 20 per cent and contacts via mobile phone increased by 29 per cent.

“Over the last decade, scammers have taken advantage of new technologies and current scams are using social media apps and new payment methods that didn’t exist in 2009,” she said. “In particular, a new trend with dating and romance scams is scammers contacting the victim on social media apps or games which are not designed for dating, so it’s important to be aware that scammers can target you anywhere.”

The ACCC revealed common techniques that scammers use to manipulate their victims include making exclusive offers that you don’t want to miss out on, or asking for small commitments, such as completing a survey, to make the victim more likely to comply with larger schemes.

“You can always say no, hang up the phone or delete an email, even if you’ve said yes previously,” Rickard said. “You don’t owe the scammer anything.”

If you think you have been victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed. The ACCC encourages people to visit www.scamwatch.gov.au to report scams and learn more about what to do if they are targeted by scammers.

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