Australians Lost A Record Amount To Scams Last Year

As useful as it is, the internet continued to also be a powerful tool for fraud activity last year - and the COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse.

Targeting scams - Australia

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC’s) latest Targeting Scams report released on Monday, we collectively lost over $851 million to scammers in 2020  and that is likely a conservative figure as many incidents go unreported.

The main points of contact scammers used were:

  • 47.7% - Phone - 103,153 reports
  • 22% - Email - 47,503 reports
  • 15% - Text message - 32,337 reports
  • 6.3% - Internet - 13,636 reports
  • 4.5% - Social networking/online forums - 9,687 reports

Businesses Hit Hard

Making up a significant amount of the total figure were business email compromise - aka payment redirection - scams, which resulted in $128 million in reported losses. These scams usually work in one of several ways.

  • A fraudster impersonates a supplier a company has a relationship with, requesting money owed that is sent to the scammer's account.
  • Scammers hack into a company email account and doctor legitimate invoices, changing bank details to funnel payments into their own accounts.
  • Impersonating a CEO or another authorised person to direct payments be made to the fraudster, often using an email address similar to that of the authorised person, with the discrepancy going unnoticed.

“Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated and last year used the COVID-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walks of life during this crisis," said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

If you've lost money or given out personal details to a scammer, while you may not be able to get your money back there are some steps that can be taken to minimise further loss and other damage. The ScamWatch web site offers some tips.

But prevention being better than cure, its of course far better to learn how to protect yourself from scams and there's some special related advice for small businesses.

If you've been impacted, the ACCC encourages you to report fraud via its report a scam page.

Posted: 9 Jun 2021

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