Australians are set to lose a record amount to scams in 2019, with projections from losses reported to Scamwatch and other government agencies so far expected to exceed $532 million by the end of the year, surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time.
This year’s National Scams Awareness Week (12-16 August) theme is “too smart to be scammed?” and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), along with more than 100 campaign partners from government and industry, is urging consumers to test their scam knowledge and refresh their scam protection and detection skills.
“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam, but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” said ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.
“People need to update their idea of what a scam is so that we are less vulnerable. Scammers are professional businesses dedicated to ripping us off. They have call centres with convincing scripts, staff training programs and corporate performance indicators their ‘employees’ need to meet.”
Credit card comparison website comparethemarket.com.au this week released research revealing that more than one in four retirees (27 per cent) aged 65 and over have lost more than $1000 to credit card fraud.
The research came from an independent survey of 1500 credit card holders and was aimed at discovering which age demographics lost the most money to credit card scams.
It found that the older you become, the more susceptible you are to credit card fraud.
While those aged 65 and over lost the most money to credit card fraud, those aged 55-64 were the next age group targeted the most when it came to card scams, with 22 per cent reporting upwards of $1000 lost after having their credit card details skimmed. This is compared to 20 per cent of those aged 25-34 and only 11 per cent of under-25s.
Investment scams are one of the most sophisticated and convincing scams and continue to have the highest losses. These scams are prominent on social media, with ‘Facebook lottery’ scams, the ‘Loom’ pyramid scheme and cryptocurrency scams particularly common.
Cryptocurrency investment scams have seen record losses, with reports to the ACCC alone of $14.76 million between January and July 2019. Many use social media platforms, fake celebrity endorsements or fake online trading platforms that are made to look legitimate.
“Our advice is to be wary of ads you see on the internet,” Ms Rickard said. “Don’t be persuaded by celebrity endorsements or ‘not to be missed’ opportunities. You never know for certain who you’re dealing with or whether they’re credible.
“If you think you’re speaking to a friend on social media, call them, or find another way to contact them before acting on any advice that might result in you giving away your personal details or money.”
Scamwatch also suggests that people check ASIC’s list of companies you should not deal with. If the company that contacted you is on the list – do not deal with them, and even if they are not listed, continue researching and speak to a financial adviser before investing.
Be vigilant on social media, when shopping online and when answering the phone, and never give anyone who has contacted you out of the blue your personal details, banking details or remote access to your computer, no matter who they say they are. It’s best to assume scammers are everywhere, waiting for you to let your guard down.
“Remember, anyone could fall victim. No one is ‘too smart to be scammed’. Always ask yourself, ‘could this be a scam?’ and if you’re ever in doubt, decline the contact or hang up the phone. It’s often the safest option,” Ms Rickard said.
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