$3.1 billion lost to scams in 2022: Don’t be the next victim

May 08, 2023
Source: Getty

I can’t believe my luck this week.

Firstly, I won $500 from a Bunnings’ lucky draw. All I had to do was provide my bank account details and the money would be deposited into my account.

Then I got an email saying that I’d been chosen as a Mystery Diner and that I would be paid $500 per meal, and I could dine out seven nights a week if I wanted. All I had to do was send them my bank account details so they could set me up in the booking system and I’d be ready to start work.

Next came The Stripe Team. They had $10,000.07 which was mine. Every cent matters. All I needed to do was confirm my bank details with them, so they felt comfortable that they were paying the right person.

Mrs Timothy – a widow from the Ivory Coast – had a donation for me; John Thomas Kofi wanted to give me US$14,500,000; and Low T Joh, a Malaysian businessman, wanted to discuss mutual cooperation (whatever that means).

Before you start to worry, I know that these are all scams. And to me, it seems unlikely that people would ever respond to this kind of stuff.

But frighteningly they do.

The latest Targeting Scams report shows that Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scams in 2022.

That’s an 80 per cent increase on the total losses recorded in 2021.

The report uses data from the ACCC’s Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange, IDCARE and other government agencies.

The top three loss categories were investment scams ($1.5 billion), remote access scams ($229 million) and payment redirection scams ($224 million).

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe says scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tactics.

“We have seen alarming new tactics emerge which make scams incredibly difficult to detect,’’ she said.

“This includes everything from impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organisations to scam texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages. This means now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam.

“There has been an explosion of reported losses to phishing scams in the past year, such as “Hi Mum” and Toll/Linkt text scams, which skyrocketed by 469 per cent to $24.6 million in 2022.

“Scammers evolve quickly and unfortunately, many Australians are losing their life savings.”

A friend recently lost $40,000 on a boat purchase. They found the boat online, met the owners in person, and had even taken the boat for a test drive. They had been emailing the seller about some final details, before agreeing on a price. Within minutes an invoice arrived in their Inbox with bank account details. They deposited the $40,000 only to later find out that the invoice hadn’t come from the legitimate sellers.

The money was lost. Apparently, after considerable tracking, it had found its way to an account in Russia, never to be seen again. Our friends were up the creek without a paddle – no boat and no cash. There’s no compensation if this happens. You just lose your money.

Since then, every time we get an invoice, we call the supplier and verify their details before we pay. Better safe, than sorry.

The ACCC offers these three tips to help avoid scams

  • Stop – take your time before giving money or personal information.
  • Think – ask yourself if the message or call could be fake?
  • Protect – act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank and report scams to Scamwatch.

ACCC’s Scamwatch also issued a warning about bank scams saying that scammers are using new technology to trick victims, by making the call appear to come from the bank’s legitimate phone number or by sending a text that appears in the same conversation thread as genuine bank messages.

Scamwatch received 14,603 reports about bank impersonation scams in 2022, resulting in more than $20 million in losses.

“We are incredibly concerned about bank impersonation scams because they can be so convincing, they are very hard to detect,” Lowe said.

“What’s equally worrying about this particular scam, is that it is emptying every last cent out of victims’ savings accounts. This causes both financial and emotional devastation.”

“We know of a man who lost over $500,000 after receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a major bank’s security department, wanting to know if a payment had been authorised.”

The Internet knows no boundaries. Scammers can be anywhere in the world. When we look at the numbers of internet users they are enormous.

Today, more than 64 per cent of the global population are internet users. That equates to 5.16 billion people worldwide. When the internet was released to the public at the end of 1993, there were 623 websites. A year later, there were 10,000 websites. Right now, there are one billion websites.

One growing area of concern is what’s happening on social media channels with classified advertising – such as Facebook’s Marketplace. I use this site all the time. I might be looking for a new golf club or a guitar, or just selling some old plant pots. Facebook’s Marketplace is an everyday destination for me. But just how safe is it?

Meta, who runs Facebook, won’t say how many scams are reported each year, but we do know that Australians lost at least $8,465,433 to classified scams in 2022. The figure is probably much higher because not everyone reports being scammed.

“We’re investigating the matter. Scammers present a challenge in any online environment, and marketplaces are no exception,” a Meta spokesperson said. “We continue to invest in AI to improve the accuracy of our enforcement and strengthen our review systems.”

Thank heavens that a robot is on the job. So how do you know if you are in danger of being scammed?

According to GoBanking, you may be dealing with a scammer if you spot any of these Red Flags.

  • A buyer with a new profile or without a Facebook profile photo
  • The offer of a too-good-to-be-true price
  • A buyer wanting to pay by gift card, or
  • A buyer or seller who wants to communicate with you outside of the Facebook Marketplace. Most times these people will want to chat with you on WhatsApp

We now live so much of our lives online that there’s no doubt we will all come face-to-face with scammers soon.

Good luck, and be careful.

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