Australians lost $340 million to scams in 2017

The amount of money lost to scams in 2017 will shock you.

$340 million lost to scams in 2017

Scams are becoming so sophisticated and difficult to spot, as evident in the extraordinary amount of money lost to scammers in the past year.

For the first time ever, the total cost of scams has broken the $300 million mark, with 200,000 scams costing Australians around $340 million in 2017.

The $40 million increase on 2016 totals is the highest number since the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) began its Targeting scams report nine years ago.

According to the ACCC, the most commonly reported scams were phishing, identity theft and false billing scams, with 55,000 reports leading to losses of over $4.6 million in 2017.

However, the ACCC says the true cost of these kinds of scams may be felt later, should a scammer use your personal and banking information for future use.

Investment scams took the biggest scalps, with losses totalling $64 million. Dating and romance scams were the second biggest swindle, taking in $42 million.

“It’s very worrying that Australians are losing such extraordinary amounts to scammers. Based on just the reports provided to the ACCC, victims are losing an average of $6500. In some cases people have lost more than $1 million,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

“Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot. Scammers use modern technology like social media to contact and deceive their victims. In the past few years, reports indicate scammers are using aggressive techniques both over the phone and online.”

Men were duped the most, losing over $51 million, with women losing just under $38 million. Those aged 55 to 64 were responsible for 29 per cent of the total losses and those aged 65 and over lost 23 per cent of the total, although they were the most vigilant, contributing 26 per cent of the total reports.

The top form of contact from a scammer was by phone (40 per cent), then email (31 per cent) and SMS or text message (12 per cent).

With this week being Scams Awareness Week, the ACCC is calling on Australians to be on the lookout to “Stop and check: is this for real?” any time they feel that a call, email or text message looks suspicious.

Scamwatch, the ACCC’s scam reporting website, is also seeking information on anyone pretending to be from well-known government organisations or businesses.

Last year, Scamwatch received 33,000 reports of this type of scam, where impersonators call and threaten people with ultimatums such as cancelled payments or services, fines for late payments, court action or even arrests for previously unknown ‘infractions’.

In 2017, over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these threat-based impersonation scams.

“These scams can be very frightening. For example, scammers will impersonate the Australian Taxation Office and threaten people with immediate arrest unless they pay an outstanding tax bill. They may pretend to be from Telstra to try to hack into your computer or from Centrelink promising extra payments in return for a ‘fee’,” said Ms Rickard.

“Scammers scare us or butter us up with promises of cash because they know it clouds our judgement. People get so worried about being arrested they don’t question if the person threatening them is genuine.

“If you’re being threatened, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if the call makes sense. The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest; Telstra will never need to access your computer to ‘fix’ a problem; and Centrelink will never require a fee to pay money it owes you. Finally, none of these organisations will ask you to pay using iTunes gift cards.

“If something doesn’t feel right, hang up the phone or hit delete. If the person said they were, for example, from Telstra or the ATO, find the phone number for that organisation online or in the phone book, call them and let them know about the call you received. They’ll let you know if it’s genuine or a scam.”

Visit www.scamwatch.gov.au to report any scams or suspicious activity.

Were you the victim of a scam last year? Or do you think you may have been contacted by a scammer? How did you handle this situation?

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    COMMENTS

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    MD
    22nd May 2018
    12:07pm
    "Investment scams took the biggest scalps, with losses totalling $64 million. Dating and romance scams were the second biggest swindle, taking in $42 million."

    Of course investment scams made the biggest hit, predominately the result of stupid, greedy suckers and their (unfounded) faith in believing the clap trap, pie in the sky promises of con-men. Witness the never ending litany of woes regularly on media - "pensioner robbed of life savings, left destitute". "My life savings" (and the like).

    Dating and romance - hah! You can put lipstick on a pig but it's a pig nevertheless. Teach a monkey to type and he'll achieve instant celebrity status with all the swingers.

    Stupidity, greed only a part of this problem which will grow as IT (banking, insurance, shopping but a few) pervades more intrusively into the daily lives of retirees.

    A recent report where wealthy Chinese people, that have family in university here, are being contacted by scammers claiming to hold their kids and demanding ransom.
    In desperate times expect desperadoes to plumb new depths, beware.
    Remember, if it's too good to be true then it probably isn't.
    KSS
    22nd May 2018
    1:32pm
    Yes. Well. As they say: 'a fool and his money are soon parted'.

    Try going to the closest ATO office next time you need to pay extra tax or go to Centrelink to repay your erroneously claimed welfare and take the fee in iTune cards! See what reception you get. Or grab the first person you meet next time you leave your house, declare undying love, give them the access codes to your money and then just walk away.

    What? You wouldn't do any of those things? Then why do it because someone calls or e-mails you? next time someone threatens you with immediate arrest for not getting sufficient gift cards, tell them you will put the kettle on, open a packet of biscuits and sit and wait for the police to arrive. Tell them you need a large amount of dental treatment, cosmetic surgery (whatever comes to mind) and if you are in prison you will get the medical services you require with no co-payment - so bring it on.

    haha

    Oh and if you do fall for these scams, I have a lovely bridge I can sell you for a good price, its old but in good condition. Oh and there's a nice concert hall right next to it too for just a few dollars more!
    Old Geezer
    22nd May 2018
    1:35pm
    I have been told there is a very convincing scam involving Centrelink that has just started doing the rounds so be very careful of any emails or phone calls you receive from Centrelink.

    22nd May 2018
    3:38pm
    The biggest scammers of all? The Liberal Party!
    Anonymous
    22nd May 2018
    10:55pm
    Yes another dickhead comment from knows nothing just keep lining up for your welfare cheque you loser
    musicveg
    22nd May 2018
    4:23pm
    Scams are easy to identify if you look carefully, check the email source. I recently got a phone call saying I won a trip to Florida! I knew it was a scam because I never entered the competition, I kept saying "what is the catch" and "but I don't want to go to Florida" but he kept talking over me, and finally told me I had to pay a "fee" and then I said firmly "I have already told you I do not want to go to Florida" and he hang up, I know I could of hang up early but I wanted to know the "catch" and had a bit of fun.
    Rocky
    22nd May 2018
    5:06pm
    I still don't understand why this is still happening if it sounds too good to be true then it is too good to be true are people so greedy that they get burned I really don't have a lot of sympathy for these people be happy with what you have or invest in blue chip stocks
    Charlie
    22nd May 2018
    5:25pm
    Not only the scam but the way they clutter up the telephone lines, so a person cant freely answer the telephone anymore.

    There's scammers and people wanting donations to the point that the telephone always brings bad news. Then the politicians contribute to the attack on privacy by leaving lengthy prerecorded political messages

    Friends don't like to run into an answering machine and Its amazing the number of young people working in small business who don't know how to leave a message or they get "stage fright". Its old technology.

    22nd May 2018
    7:02pm
    knows a lot, there always has to be a DICKHEAD and you are the only one in these columns, what a absolute disgrace you turned out to be, feel sorry for those who tried to bring you up and failed miserable, not their fault, just being unlucky with being handed a loser like you!!!!
    GeorgeM
    22nd May 2018
    11:23pm
    All good advice in the article from ACCC. However, the following comments need ACTION:
    "200,000 scams costing Australians around $340 million in 2017"
    "Scamwatch, the ACCC’s scam reporting website, is also seeking information on anyone pretending to be from well-known government organisations or businesses. Last year, Scamwatch received 33,000 reports of this type of scam".

    Does ACCC do ANYTHING to actually take action ANYWHERE? We found out they did not act against roguish behaviours by Banks, and in this case (scams) they only seem to collect information and make reports.

    How about the Govt TELL THEM to TAKE REAL ACTION, by identifying crooks by using the help of Telecommunications companies, and use Federal Police & Interpol to track them down and bring them to justice! Otherwise, why do we need such Paper Tigers who don't actually help the people, and simply waste a lot of taxpayers money just to make reports?
    KSS
    23rd May 2018
    9:21am
    George all well and good but most of these scams originate overseas and therefore very difficult to track down (they use multiple routing to disguise the country of origin) the perpetrators much less prosecute.