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Monday, 12 August 2019 11:31

Warning of record $532 million in losses to scams this year Featured

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Australians are expected to suffer record losses to scammers exceeding $532 million by the end of this year, surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time, according to the latest Scamwatch report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The latest warnings from the ACCC coincide with this year’s National Scams Awareness Week from 12 to 16 August, with the theme is “too smart to be scammed?”

And with today’s launch of the Scam Awareness Week, the ACCC - along with over 100 campaign partners from government and industry - is urging consumers to test their scams knowledge and refresh their scam protection and detection skills.

“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says.

“People need to update their idea of what a scam is so that we are less vulnerable. Scammers are professional businesses dedicated to ripping us off. They have call centres with convincing scripts, staff training programs, and corporate performance indicators their ‘employees’ need to meet.”

Rickard warns that investment scams are one of the most sophisticated and convincing scams and continue to have the highest losses, with nearly half of all investment scams reported this year resulting in a financial loss.

Rickard says these scams are prominent on social media, with ‘Facebook lottery’ scams, the ‘Loom’ pyramid scheme, and cryptocurrency scams particularly common.

And the ACCC chief says cryptocurrency investment scams have seen record losses, with reports to the Commission alone of $14.76 million between January and July 2019 – and with many using social media platforms, fake celebrity endorsements or fake online trading platforms that are made to look legitimate.

Rickard also has some protection advice for those hit by scams.

“Our advice is to be wary of ads you see on the internet. Don’t be persuaded by celebrity endorsements or ‘not to be missed’ opportunities. You never know for certain who you’re dealing with or whether they’re credible,” Rickard said.

“If you think you’re speaking to a friend on social media, call them, or find another way to contact them before acting on any advice that might result in you giving away your personal details or money.”

“Scamwatch also suggests that people check ASIC's list of companies you should not deal with. If the company that contacted you is on the list - do not deal with them, and even if they are not listed, continue researching and speak to a financial advisor before investing.

“Be vigilant on social media, when shopping online and when answering the phone, and never give anyone who has contacted you out of the blue your personal details, banking details or remote access to your computer, no matter who they say they are. It’s best to assume scammers are everywhere, waiting for you to let your guard down.

“Remember, anyone could fall victim and no one is ‘too smart to be scammed’. Always ask yourself, ‘could this be a scam?’ and if you’re ever in doubt, decline the contact or hang up the phone - it’s often the safest option,” Rickard concluded.

Commenting on the prediction of the record number of losses to scams, Labor's Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said: "This surge in losses highlights why Labor has been calling for action on scams."

“More than ever, we need measures which make it harder for scammers to reach Australians over telecommunications networks and social media - especially when they are conducting these crimes from overseas.”

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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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