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Wednesday, 01 May 2019 11:21

Businesses lose millions to massive increase in email scams Featured

Businesses lose millions to massive increase in email scams Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Australian businesses were hit by more than 5800 scams in 2018 with scammers taking in excess of $7.2 million from unsuspecting companies through email attacks.

The latest Scamwatch report from the competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, reveals that the high volume of scams represented a 53% increase on the number of scams reported in 2017, with much of the increase due to the $3.8 million reported lost to sophisticated "business email compromise" scams.

And when combined with losses reported to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network, these scams cost Australian businesses over $60 million.

“Scammers are hacking business email systems and impersonating the intended payment recipient. The scammers request changes to bank account details so that the business makes the payment to the scammer instead of the legitimate business,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.

“Depending on how long the scammers get away with this and how large the transfers are, this scam can be devastating to a business’s bottom line – to the extent of forcing small and medium businesses into closure.”

Keogh said the scam targeted businesses of all sizes, and even small local sporting clubs and community groups and organisations that transfer money via bank accounts is a potential target.

“Scamwatch has even received reports of the hackers intercepting house deposits that have been sent to conveyancers, real estate agents or law firms," he said.

Keogh said small businesses with fewer than 20 staff were most likely to be targeted by scammers and accounted for more than 75% of reports to the ACCC.

And Scamwatch warns that businesses were most likely to be targeted with false billing scams (1819 reports), but investment, hacking and phishing scams also caused significant losses.

“Australian businesses must protect themselves by ensuring their staff are aware of these scams so they can identify and avoid them,” Keogh said.

“Every business should have clear processes for transferring money and a procedure for verifying requests to change bank account details that uses multiple modes of communication.”

The ACCC says businesses can sign up to its Small Business Information Network to receive emails about new or updated resources, enforcement action, changes to Australia’s competition and consumer laws, events, surveys and scams relevant to the small business sector.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year 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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