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More than $1.2 billion lost in scams, ACCC reports

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Scammers have robbed everyday Australians of a record $2 billion during 2021.

From investment opportunities, to romance, online shopping and even charity donations, have been used to lure unsuspecting victims.

And it’s our most vulnerable who are being hit the hardest.

Despite government, law enforcement, and the private sector disrupting more scam activity than ever before, the ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report reveals dishonesty is on the rise.

The report includes data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, major banks, money remitters, and other government agencies, and is based on analysis of more than 560,000 incidences.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says reported losses totalled almost $1.8 billion in 2021, but as one-third of victims do not report scams, the figure is more likely to be well over $2 billion.

“Scam activity continues to increase, and last year a record number of Australians lost a record amount of money,” she said.

“Scammers are the most opportunistic of all criminals: they pose as charities after a natural disaster, health departments during a pandemic, and love interests every day.

“The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families, and businesses.”

The top three scams included investment scams were at $701 million, followed by payment redirection scams at $227 million, and romance scams totalling $142 million.

Women reported the most scams in 2021, but it was men that lost the most amount of money, with men’s losses to investment scams double women’s losses. 

People aged 65 and over reported the highest losses, and reported losses steadily increased with age.

In 2021, Scamwatch received record numbers of reports of losses from Australians experiencing vulnerability or hardship. 

People with a disability made twice as many reports compared to 2020, and their financial losses increased by 102% to $19.6 million.

The number of reports by Indigenous Australians increased by 43% between 2020 and 2021, and reported losses increased by 142%.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities experienced an 88% increase in losses last year compared to 2020.

“The increasing number of reports by people experiencing vulnerability is a very worrying trend. Everyone from government, to banks, and digital platforms needs to do more to address this,” Ms Rickard said.

“The ACCC is particularly wanting banks to match payee information in pay anyone transactions. This has been shown to have a real impact in countries that have done so.”

People who detect a scam, whether or not they have lost money to it, can report scams and learn more about how to get help on the Scamwatch website at scamwatch.gov.au.

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