Aussies conned out of $851m during Covid | #romancescams


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Aussies lost more than $851m to scams last year, according to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report released on Monday.

Aussies were conned out of a record $851 million in 2020 as scammers took advantage of the Covid pandemic to prey on unsuspecting people during the crisis.

Investment scams topped the list, with $328m lost – more than a third of total losses.

Romance scams came in next, with lonely hearts duped out of $131m.

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Others were swindled by payment redirection scams, which resulted in $128m of losses, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Targeting Scams report released on Monday.

The report, using data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, other government agencies, 10 banks and financial intermediaries, is based on more than 444,000 reports.

However, authorities believe the total losses are underestimated.

“Last year, scam victims reported the biggest losses we have seen, but worse, we expect the real losses will be even higher, as many people don’t report these scams,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

Ms Rickard said scammers were increasingly sophisticated in their methods, using the pandemic last year to dupe people from all walks of life during the crisis.

Lonely hearts lost $131m to scams in 2020, according to the report. Photo: Karin Calvert
Lonely hearts lost $131m to scams in 2020, according to the report. Photo: Karin Calvert

A total of $176m of the $851m in combined losses was reported to Scamwatch alone.

Victorians reported $49m in losses to Scamwatch, more than double those in 2019.

The state, which was hit hard by the virus’s second wave, had the highest losses recorded nationwide by Scamwatch.

Reports and losses for some scams increased as people spent more time online during the lockdown.

“We saw scammers claiming the government restrictions meant people could not see items in person before purchase,” Ms Rickard said.

“This was a common ruse in vehicle sale and puppy scams, which both had higher reports and losses.”

Investment scams accounted for the biggest losses, according to the ACCC report.
Investment scams accounted for the biggest losses, according to the ACCC report.

Health and medical scams jumped more than 20 fold compared with 2019, accounting for more than $3.9m in losses.

Losses to threat-based scams also rose by 178 per cent to $11.8m.

More than $8.4m was lost to remote access scams, an increase of more than 74 per cent.

Phishing activity also thrived during the pandemic, especially through government impersonation scams.

There were more than 44,000 reports of phishing scams – a 75 per cent increase.

melissa.iaria1@news.com.au

Reporter

Sydney

Melissa Iaria got her first newsroom job at the Footscray Mail and hasn’t looked back since. She cut her teeth at the Australian Associated Press where she spent years reporting on courts, politics, entertain… Read more

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