Australian consumers are being hit harder by scams than ever before, with a steep increase in losses reported to government agencies last year.
In 2018, $489 million in losses from around 378,000 scams were reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network and other government agencies.
These losses represent a 44 per cent increase over losses reported in 2017, according to the ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report.
The ACCC says the true cost of scams is probably much higher than the losses reported because many scams are not reported.
Investment and dating scams topped the list of reports to the ACCC’s Scamwatch site. Losses from investment scams increase by 34 per cent to $86 million.
Close to half of all victims (46.9 per cent) said the scammer contacted them by telephone, 23.2 per cent by email and 14.4 per cent by text message.
The ACCC says one notable trend is that scammers are using social media and automated calls to access victims. Australian Taxation Office impersonations were particularly prevalent, with many thousands of people reporting receiving robo-calls from ATO impersonators.
Other common scams include:
- Scammers threaten arrest, loss of benefits or deportation unless the victim pays a fine.
- False bills are received via email
- Scammers impersonate the police and ask for access to the victim’s computer to catch scammers.
To avoid detection, scammers are increasingly asking for payment in the form or gift cards or cryptocurrencies.
The report says scammers gain access to private information by breaking into mailboxes (physical ones), sending out phishing emails and text messages, asking people to fill in fake quizzes and surveys and sending social media requests.
Investment scams often involve offers to invest in exotic or complex financial instruments, such as cryptocurrencies, option and currencies.
In schemes involves these instruments, scammers encourage the victim to invest a small amount and show them big returns on their investment. They encourage them to invest larger amount, which is then stolen.