Scammers targeting the vulnerable, ACCC warns

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Scammers are robbing the community’s most vulnerable of millions of dollars every year.

A new report released this week indicates migrants, Indigenous people, investors and those seeking love, were at greatest risk of being swindled.

The data collected in the annual Targeting Scams report has prompted Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair Delia Rickard to issue an urgent warning.

“Investment scams often begin with cold calls promising low risk investments with high returns and can go on for months, resulting in high individual losses,” she said.

“If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Don’t let anyone pressure you and make sure you take the time to research the investment opportunity and get financial advice before agreeing to anything.”

In 2019, people who reported speaking English as a second language lost $13.7 million, an increase of 90% on the previous year.

This increase was mainly from investment scams, which accounted for over $5.3 million in losses in this group.

Dating and romance scams had the next highest losses in this group at $2.7 million, followed by scams using threats to life or arrest at $1.7 million.

“Chinese authority scams continue to target the Mandarin-speaking community by accusing victims of perpetrating a crime, and threatening arrest or deportation if they do not provide money, or information such as their bank account balances and identity details,” Ms Rickard said.

Losses to Chinese authority scams in 2019 increased by 40% on 2018 figures, up to $2 million.

Last year, 4.6% of reports to Scamwatch came from people who speak English as a second language and 1.6% came from people who identified as Indigenous.

“We want to encourage all community groups to report to Scamwatch and not feel embarrassed or ashamed if they have been a victim of a scam,” Ms Rickard said.

In 2019 there were 2,767 scam reports from Indigenous consumers, a 14% increase from 2018, but the $2.1 million lost was 30% lower.

Again, the most financially harmful scams in this group were investment scams, with over $1.1 million lost. This was followed by dating and romance scams with nearly half a million in losses.

“If you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank immediately and, if you have any concerns about your safety, contact the police,” Ms Rickard said.

“The ACCC has translated our Little Black Book of Scams into ten different languages to assist the wider community to learn about scams and how to avoid them.

“We are also continuing our Indigenous outreach programs and sharing scam warnings on the Your Rights Mob Facebook page.”

For more information about scams, visit the Scamwatch website.

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