Investment, dating, crypto scams rip off millions
Australians continue to lose money to dodgy schemes.
Men are more likely to fall for investment scams while women are more likely to fall for dating scams.
That’s according to the latest Targeting scams report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The report found internet and phone scams are making more money than ever.
Reported losses from scams in 2017 amounted to $340 million, an increase of $40 million over 2016 losses.
Collectively, the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other government organisations received over 200,000 scam reports last year.
Investment scams were a particular growth area, with a 33% increase in losses reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website.
Between reports to Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), losses to investment scams totalled $64.6 million.
The ACCC reported that the growth was primarily due to the increase in the amount lost per victim: the average loss reported for an investment scam was $53,827.
In 2017, there were 20 reports of losses exceeding $400,000 – compared to 2016 when just four people reported losses exceeding that amount.
Dating scams were the second largest loss area, with a total of $42 million lost to catfishing and other dating scams.
The ACCC also noted a marked increase in the use of cryptocurrency in scams.
“As the value of actual cryptocurrencies increased, so too did the scam losses in what people thought were real investments,” the report noted.
“By the end of the year, reports of losses related to cryptocurrencies exceeded $2.1 million but as with other scams, this is likely the very tip of the iceberg.”
The report also revealed that online was the most popular method of contact in the last year, with scams initiated via email, social media, mobile apps and web sites coming to 42% of total scams.
The good old telephone remained a popular contact method, however, with 40% of scams initiated by phone.
It also turns out there is also a gender divide when it comes to scams.
Of the $20.5 million in losses reported to Scamwatch for dating scams, $12.7 million was lost by women.
And of the $31.3 million lost to investment scams reported to Scamwatch, $22.8 million was lost by men.
Overview of scams reported to the ACCC in order of reported losses
Top 10 scam categories reported to the ACCC in 2017 by number of reports
This was the first time reported losses to scams have totalled more than $300 million and demonstrated the increasing impact of scams on Australians, the ACCC’s chair Delia Rickard said.
Investment scams topped the losses at $64 million, an increase of more than 8%. Dating and romance scams caused the second greatest losses at $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 $6,500,” Ms Rickard said.
“In some cases, people have lost more than $1 million.”
“Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot. Scammers use modern technology such as 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. 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, in a bid to hack into your computer, or from Centrelink promising extra payments in return for a ‘fee’.”
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.
“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.”
The ACCC encourages people to visit www.scamwatch.gov.au or call 13 74 68 to report scams so it can warn others about them.
If anyone receives an unexpected and threatening call or email, they should follow these tips:
- Always ask yourself whether the person or business that’s contacted you out of the blue is who they say they are.
- Verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search, then get in touch with them to ask if they contacted you. Never use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message or email.
- Never send money or give your banking, credit card details or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Know that a government agency or legitimate business will never ask you to pay them with gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin.
- Never click on links in emails and never give anyone remote access to your computer if they’ve contacted you out of the blue — whether through a phone call, pop up window or email.
– Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). Targeting scams: report of the ACCC on scam activity 2017. Read report
– Information Age. Published by Nathan Taylor, 22 May 2018. Read article
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