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Monday, 22 June 2020 14:12

Australians lose over $634 million to scammers Featured

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Australians lost over $634 million to scams in 2019, according to the latest Scamwatch report from the consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

According to the latest figures in the ACCC’s Targeting Scams report released on Monday, there were more than 353,000 combined reports to Scamwatch, other government agencies and the big four banks last 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.”

The ACCC reports that business email compromise scams accounted for the highest losses in 2019, with the Australian business email compromise, and some individuals losing $132 million - followed by investment scams at $126 million, and dating and romance scams at $83 million.

Rickard said that over the last 10 years of Targeting Scams reports, Scamwatch has received almost one million reports of scams.

"When we combine Scamwatch reports with partner data, we see that Australians have reported losing $2.5 billion over that time, which is astonishing,” Rickard said.

“We know these numbers still vastly understate losses as around one third of people don’t report scam losses to anyone and in the past far fewer scam reports to other agencies have been captured.

“Some of these scams can last for months, or even years, and can leave victims financially and emotionally devastated.”

Based solely on reports provided to the ACCC in 2019, scams originating on social media increased by 20% and contacts via mobile phone apps increased by 29%.

“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,” Rickard 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.”

Rickard said that 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. You don’t owe the scammer anything,” Rickard said.

“If you think have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed”.

The ACCC says it continues to work with the private sector to share intelligence about scam trends impacting their services, “to assist their own disruption efforts”.

Commenting on the ACCC’s Scamwatch report, Labor Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said “the first priority of Government should be to keep Australians safe – including from the financial and emotional harm caused by scams”.

“The Government has been watching this problem get worse for seven years – how many wake-up calls do they need?,” Rowland said.

“2020 has changed the way we work and live – the more we use technology to interact with each other or conduct business, the greater our exposure to scams.

“Labor has been calling for the use of sophisticated technology to combat scams for some time now. Today’s report demonstrates why this Government needs to act now”.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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