The shocking figures come from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s ninth annual Targeting scams report which notes that more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based Government agencies in 2017, with a reported losses totalling $340 million.
As well as noting a $40 million increase in reported losses from the previous year, the report also shows that investment scams were most common, with Australians aged 55-64 reporting the highest amount of losses, and those over 65 lodging the highest number of reports.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says it is “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 [and] in some cases people have lost more than $1 million,” she explains.
“Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot.
“Scammers use modern technology like social media to contact and deceive their victims [and] 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 Tax Office and threaten people with immediate arrest unless they pay an outstanding bill.
“These scams can be very frightening.”
Peak body for seniors advocacy in Australia, National Seniors, has spoken out on the topic, with Chief Advocate Ian Henschke highlighting the increased risk posed to older Australians.
“Scammers target older people because they can be less tech-savvy than younger people,” he says.
“Like anyone else, older people can be tempted by the prospect of making a quick dollar, receiving an unexpected windfall, or finding love online - particularly if they are lonely following the loss of a long-time partner.”
As part of Scam Week 2018, running from 21-25 May, both Ms Rickard and Mr Henschke reiterate that there are certain steps all Australians can take to protect themselves from falling victim to scams.
Some advice includes:
- Thinking twice before handing over any personal information
- Never give anyone you don’t know access to your computer
- Be wary of transferring money online unless it is to a secure site
- Don’t be taken in by the prospect of a surprise win
- Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay in iTunes vouchers or gift cards
- Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- And, “If something doesn’t feel right, hang up the phone or hit delete,” Ms Rickard says.
If you think you have been scammed, contact your financial institution, the ACCC’s Scamwatch, or the police immediately.