Aussies lose $80 million to scams

In conjunction with the launch of National Consumer Fraud Week, the ACCC has released the latest national scam figures for 2014. Almost $82 million was lost to scams last year, down from the $89.1 million loss in 2013 and $93.4 million in 2012. Australians aged 45 and over accounted for 68 per cent of the total losses to scams in 2014, but accounted for just 55 per cent of scam reports.

Almost 92,000 scams reported by consumers and small businesses were recorded by the ACCC with around 11,000 of those reporting a loss of money. The top three scam sectors last year were dating and romance schemes at $28 million, investment schemes at $12 million, and betting and sports investment schemes at $9 million.

In 2014, 53 per cent of reported scams were delivered via telephone call or text message, accounting for over $23 million of losses, while online scams accounted for over 37 per cent of reported scams and over $47 million in scam losses for the year. A wide selection of ‘other’ scams make up the final nine per cent of reported scams and almost $11 million in losses.

The top 10 scams to look out for in order are:

  1. reclaim scams
  2. phishing
  3. remote access
  4. ID theft
  5. hacking
  6. inheritance scams
  7. unexpected prize and lottery
  8. classified scams
  9. false billing
  10. ransomware and malware.

SCAMwatch recommends you follow these six tips to protect yourself from scams:

  • keep your personal details secure
  • think twice about what you say and do in an online environment
  • keep your mobile devices and computers secure
  • choose your passwords carefully
  • beware of any request for your details or money
  • get a copy of your credit report.


Opinion: Smarter but still vulnerable

The overall figures for scams have decreased year-on-year since 2012, but even a decrease to $82 million isn’t a win in the battle against scammers. There is no question in my mind that the general public is starting to catch onto the methods that scammers are now using, but that doesn’t mean Australians aren’t still vulnerable.

Scammers continue to think of new and improved ways to scam their victims. In 2014, the use of stolen user data was the new method of choice for savvy scammers. The most unique approach I saw was where the scammer logs onto the stolen Facebook or email account of a user and contacts all of the user’s friends. In this email, or direct message, they tell the friend that they had been robbed in an overseas country, losing both their wallet and passport. The scammer asks for a small amount of money between $200 and $800 to be sent via untraceable money transfer.

While the numbers may look rosey, internet scams continue to account for the largest losses, and the number of scams will only continue to increase in coming years. I am the target of several scams every day, but just like most Australians, I don’t report them. I suspect the report released by the ACCC would read very differently in this regard if we all reported them. 

Have you been the target of a scam? Did you fall victim? Did you end up reporting the scam and loss of money?