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Monday, 07 March 2011 16:27

Gen X biggest dupes for scammers: ACCC

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Scams more than doubled in 2010 compared to 2009, with Gen X the most likely target, according to a new report from the ACCC. Costing Australians a total of $63 million for the year, one reported scam alone cost $4 million.



The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received around 42,000 scam-related reports in 2010 compared to around 20,000 in 2009.

Scams continued to target people of all ages but the majority who provided their age when contacting the ACCC were Gen X members, between 35 and 44 years of age.

One of the most prevalent scam categories was 'dating and romance scams', with one victim reporting a loss of more than $200,000. Other scams included online auction fraud, computer hacking scams and online banking scams.

Scam losses reported to the ACCC from cyber crime and scams totalled more than $63 million in 2010, and most consumers reported no financial loss, however 16 per cent of consumers who reported a scam reported losses between $1 million and $4 million.

ACCC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said the report - Targeting Scams, the ACCC's annual report on consumer fraud - revealed that scam activity remains a threat to Australian consumers and businesses.

'The ACCC's work shows that consumer scams have become a serious form of economic crime, especially in the online arena,' Mr Kell said.

However, the ACCC Report also notes that more Australians are prepared to report scams, even if they haven't lost money.

Around 16 per cent of consumers and small businesses who reported scams to the ACCC suffered monetary losses, ranging from a few dollars to several million. While scam reports to the ACCC increased, the amount reported lost in 2010 was $63 million, down slightly from 2009.

'Nonetheless, we recognise that the losses reported to the ACCC represent only a part of the overall cost to the Australian community, as many scams go unreported and indirect losses are also significant,' Mr Kell said.

Online scams remained the largest method of delivery and grew from 14,000 in 2009 to over 19,000 in 2010.

A notable trend was the increase in scams initiated by telephone, which grew from around 2,000 in 2009 to more than 14,000 reports in 2010.

'It appeared that many of these calls may have originated offshore and it's likely that they are taking advantage of cheap or free voice over internet services,' said Mr Kell.
2010 also saw an increase in scams impersonating government departments or major businesses Mr Kell explained.

'Some of these scams are quite sophisticated, with the use of logos and language that look and sound genuine.'

This year's focus for National Consumer Fraud Week is on the impact of scams on individual victims, highlighted by the theme Scams: It's Personal.

'While the overall financial cost of scams is high, we should not overlook the personal toll experienced by individuals who fall victim to these crimes,' Mr Kell said.

Individuals who have been scammed can suffer damage to relationships with family and friends, loss of self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others and in forming future relationships.

'The often debilitating personal effect of scams is why the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is committed to educating Australians about the dangers of scams and equipping them with the tools to identify them,' Mr Kell said.

The Taskforce was formed in March 2005 and comprises 22 government regulatory agencies and departments with responsibility for consumer protection regarding frauds and scams.

Several initiatives are also being launched in 2011 to combat the rising number of scams, for example ACCC will launch a SCAMwatch Twitter page. Twitter will allow the ACCC to inform consumers of scams as they emerge, and consumers and partner organisations will be able to disseminate scams messages by re-tweeting ACCC scam tweets on their own Twitter pages.

While 35 to 44 year olds were the majority of consumers who reported a scam, this may also be due to the fact that Gen Y users would perhaps not report a scam to the ACCC, even if they were severely affected. Baby boomers on the other hand are statistically less likely to be using the internet regularly than their Gen Y or X counterparts.

 


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