Between January and September this year, Australians lost $424.8 million to scammers (that’s more than $47 million a month).
It signifies a 90 per cent increase in losses compared to the same period last year.
But those figures are likely only the tip of the iceberg, with just 13 per cent of victims reporting crimes to Scamwatch.
Your quick guide
- Scamwatch has received more than 166,00 reports with more than $425.8 million in total losses.
- People aged 65 and over made the most reports (35,343) and experienced the highest losses ($87.4 million).
- Approximately 12 per cent of people who reported to Scamwatch experienced a financial loss, and 27 per cent reported loss of personal information.
Combined losses this year may reach $4b
In 2021, Australians lost nearly $1.8 billion to scams, but the ACCC believes the real figure is “well over $2 billion”.
This year, it says combined losses may be on track to reach $4 billion.
“With millions of Australians more vulnerable to scams following the recent spate of large-scale data breaches, there has never been a more important time to know the tell-tale signs of a scammer,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“We know scammers are relentlessly targeting Australians. Research commissioned by the ACCC shows that 96 per cent of the population was exposed to a scam in the five years to 2021.
“Half of the survey’s respondents were contacted weekly or daily by scammers, a figure expected to rise given current cyber security concerns.”
Investment scams led to the highest losses by far
After netting more than $700 million in losses last year, investment scams are once again taking the largest financial toll.
About $292.9 million was lost to investment scams between January and September, followed by dating and romance scams ($29 million) and remote access scams ($18.7 million).
But phishing prompted the most reports to the ACCC (50,015 reports), followed by false-billing (16,263 reports) and online shopping scams (13,068).
Australians were contacted over the phone (51,234 reports) and by SMS (50,947 reports) the most, while email (33,287 reports) was also a common avenue used by scammers.
Cyber criminals are capitalising on data breaches
There have been “hundreds of reports” to Scamwatch within weeks of high profile data breaches, Ms Rickard says — something that is expected to continue.
“Cyber criminals have capitalised on the data breach by impersonating government departments and businesses to carry out identity theft and remote access scams,” she says.
“While there is a great deal of work underway to disrupt scammers, our best defence against these types of scams is education.”
The ACCC’s tips to protect yourself:
Make your accounts as safe as your home. Set up extra steps on your accounts to stop people getting in.
Add more steps to show who you are when you log into your online services and apps (multi-factor authentication). This could be a code sent to your phone, a token or secret question. Your face or fingerprint or voice can also be the key to let you into your accounts.
Ask your banks and service providers how to add more checks so no one can pretend to be you, and don’t forget to tell them if you have been in a data breach.