If you think scams are on the rise, you’re right

If you’re over 50, there’s a good chance you’ll remember Monty Python’s famous 1970 Spam sketch.

Fast forward five decades and, while Spam remains popular with some, you are far more likely to be drowned out by calls of ‘Scam! Scam! Scam!’ And, as it turns out, if you are over 45 (but under 65) you are in fact more likely to fall victim to a scam than other age group.

A new report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) underscores the proliferation and diversity of scams in the 2020s, and the figures indicate that case numbers continue to rise.

The ABS’s Personal Fraud report for 2021-22 shows across-the-board increases.

The bureau’s definition of personal fraud includes card fraud, identity theft, and scams that can involve phishing, romance, computer support and financial advice.

According to the report, people aged 45 to 64 were more likely to be victims of scams than those in older or younger age groups.

Card fraud increased from 6.9 per cent of the population in 2020-21 to 8.1 per cent in 2021-22, and scam exposure increased from 55 per cent to 65 per cent.

It’s important to note that the ABS definition of ‘scam exposure’ is broad, and does not necessarily refer to those who were actual victims of a scam.

A person is considered to have been exposed to a scam if they have received an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer, and read, viewed, or listened to the material.

To get a better idea of the actual rate of scam victimisation, the ABS then separated those who had gone a step further and responded to the scam material. Despite the rise in exposure to scams, the scam victimisation rate surprisingly decreased from 3.6 per cent to 2.7 per cent in the 2021-22 reporting period.

It’s a sign that, as we are exposed to more of these scams, we are getting better at recognising them and avoiding their traps.

The ways in which scammers attempt to defraud us are myriad and constantly evolving. Popular ones in Australia include texts and emails purporting to be from Australia Post or other delivery services. These messages usually contain a link to a site that will ask for your login and/or personal details.

The sites often look official, but they are anything but!

In many cases the site’s URL will be a giveaway, often being a jumble of letters not relevant to the official carrier service. Many will often also feature spelling errors or poor grammar, as they originate from non-English speaking countries.

Social media sites are another environment in which scammers thrive. In a recent example on Facebook, some people were lured into a trap with a fake post claiming to offer a Delonghi Coffee Machine being sold through Bunnings for just $3, a tiny fraction of its regular price.

The offer was claimed to be the result of an oversupply issue, and included an apparent photo of a Bunnings staff member next to a stack of new machines with a ‘$3’ sign above it, but the offer was said to be only valid for online purchases. Those who took up the offer were asked to hand over their banking card details and became unwitting victims.

As with many such scams, the old adage ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ is applicable here.

On the other hand, the fact that those aged between 45 and 64 are being scammed at the highest rate of any age bracket, indicates that, at least in this case, older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser.

Have you been the target of scammers? How did you deal with the situation? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Why banks should do more for victims of financial scams

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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