The competition watchdog says Australians aged over 65 submitted more than 26,400 reports to Scamwatch in 2018, with losses exceeding $21.4 million.
The $21m-plus represents an increase of 5% in reports, but 22% in losses.
“Scammers will scour dating sites and social media for older Australians who have recently divorced or lost a long term partner, taking advantage of those who are inexperienced with these sites and may be in a vulnerable emotional state,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
The ACCC says that older Australians looking to grow their nest eggs, but who instead get caught up in investment scams, reported losses of $7.6 million, and those misled through fake relationships reported losses of $5.8 million to dating and romance scams.
“Scammers will start with a cold call to their victim promising low risk investments for high returns. They may spend months grooming their victims and once a victim invests, they’re quickly convinced to put more and more money in. As soon as the victim tries to cash in on their investment, the scammer quickly disappears,” Rickard said.
Scamwatch received more than 7800 reports from people with disabilities or who identified as having a chronic illness, with losses in excess of $8.7 million.
And these Australians also reported higher losses per report to investment scams and dating and romance scams when compared with those who did not identify as having a disability or chronic illness.
The report reveals that indigenous Australians also reported record losses in 2018.
Scamwatch received 2434 scam reports from Indigenous people with losses exceeding $3 million – a 79% increase compared to 2017. Investment scams were the most financially harmful, with $1.1 million reported lost.
“The ACCC is committed to continuing our education and awareness efforts including our Indigenous outreach work and distribution of our Little Black Book of Scams. As vulnerable consumers can be difficult to reach through traditional channels we also encourage the wider community to assist in warning these consumers about scams.” Rickard said.