The new Targetting Scams report reveals Australians lost more than $634 million to scams in 2019, with more than 353,000 combined reports to Scamwatch, other government agencies and the big four banks last year. This is more than double the loss reported in 2016 and continuing a trend of scams booming.
For the first time, the ACCC has used scam data from the big four banks, giving it a far broader base of data to track scam activity.
Based on a Roy Morgan survey, the ACCC said scam victims are more likely to report financial losses to their bank than anywhere else, with only 13 per of people who lost money or personal information reporting the loss to the ACCC’s Scamwatch.
“When we combine Scamwatch reports with partner data, we see that Australians have reported losing $2.5 billion over that time, which is astonishing,” ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said.
“We know these numbers still vastly understate losses as around one-third of people don’t report scam losses to anyone and in the past far fewer scam reports to other agencies have been captured.”
The ACCC reported that while most scams remain fundamentally the same as in 2009, many have adapted over time to use social media, new payment methods and online services to source new victims or legitimise their stories.
Significant advances in technology over the past decade have contributed to the proliferation of scams affecting Australians.
The top three scams in terms of losses reported to Scamwatch were investment scams ($62 million), dating and romance scams ($29 million), and false billing scams ($10 million).
The top three scams in terms of number of Scamwatch reports were phishing (25,168), threats to life, arrest or other (13,375) and identity theft (11,373).
The top three payment methods for scams in 2019 were bank transfers ($70 million), Bitcoin ($19 million) and other payment methods ($15 million).
The report shows phones remain the most common contact method used by scammers at 41 per cent, slightly down from 2018.
Scams received through social media increased substantially in 2019: social networking contacts increased by 20 per cent and mobile app contacts increased by 29 per cent.
New scams have also emerged, such as business email compromise and cryptocurrency investment scams. These are now some of the most financially damaging scams for Australians.
“Over the last decade, scammers have taken advantage of new technologies and current scams are using social media apps and new payment methods that didn’t exist in 2009,” Ms Rickard said.
“In particular, a new trend with dating and romance scams is scammers contacting the victim on social media apps or games which are not designed for dating, so it’s important to be aware that scammers can target you anywhere.”
Ms Rickard said common techniques that scammers use to manipulate their victims include making exclusive offers that you don’t want to miss out on, or asking for small commitments, such as completing a survey, to make the victim more likely to comply with larger schemes.