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ACCC: Aussies Lost Over $229 Million To Scams Last Year

Australians last year lost over $229 million to scams, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has today revealed, releasing its Targeting Scams Report.

The report reveals that $85 million was reported lost to the ACCC’s Scamwatch last year, with 105,200 scam complaints, compared to 91,600 scam complaints, with almost $82 million reported lost, in 2014.

“This Fraud Week, the ACCC is urging the community to ‘Wise Up to Scams’, following a $3 million increase in scam losses reported to the ACCC and a 15 per cent increase in complaints,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard commented.

“In particular, we are encouraging older Australians to wise up and watch out for scams that target them, so they don’t have their hard-earned savings stolen.”

The ACCC has additionally for the first time reviewed data from other jurisdictions which receive reports and detect scams, stating that, after removing those scams reported to the ACCC, reports to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) revealed losses of over $127 million last year from 25,600 complaints.

Along with this, the ACCC states that various scam disruption programs detect Australians sending funds to high-risk jurisdictions, with a combined estimate of losses to this unreported scam activity of $17.1 million.

“If you add Scamwatch and ACORN data with losses detected through scam disruption work, total scam losses exceeded $229 million last year,” Rickard stated. “We know that in reality the actual total is higher still as many people never report that they’ve been scammed.

“The ACCC’s report reveals that investment scams and dating and romance scams resulted in the largest financial losses. There are many other scams which affect older members of the community, but these two scams account for half of the money reported lost by over 55s in 2015.”

Scamwatch reports for fraudulent investment schemes last year doubled across all age groups to over $24 million, with 1,262 complaints, with almost $6.3 million lost to victims over 55 and 213 complaints from this age group. Investment scams reported to ACORN brings the total amount reported to over $41 million.

“Investment scams come in many guises, including business ventures, superannuation schemes, managed funds and the sale or purchase of shares or property,” Rickard commented. “Scammers dress up ‘opportunities’ with professional-looking brochures and websites to mask their fraudulent operations and trick unsuspecting Australians.

“Before parting with your money, do your own research on the investment company and check they have a Australian Financial Services Licence on ASIC’s MoneySmart website. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making decisions about your money or investments.”

Scamwatch reports for dating and romance scams last year decreased slightly, with just under $23 million in reported losses from 2,620 complaints, with $5.6 million lost to victims over 55 and 464 complaints from this age group.

ACORN romance scam reports totalled $15 million, which, when added to losses from the disruption work, brings the total losses for relationship scams to over $54 million.

“Dating and romance scams take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media,” Rickard stated. “Scammers spend months and even years establishing a relationship with their victims before making up a reason they need to ‘borrow’ money, such as medical emergencies or travel expenses.

“Never send money to someone you have met online – chances are you will be left with a broken heart and an empty bank account. Cease contact with anyone that asks for money, no matter how you feel about them.”

Information on the ACCC’s Scam Disruption Project can be found here.

Tips:

Dating and romance scams:

  • Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided – scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online.

  • Don’t send money or your personal details to someone you meet online – no matter how convincing their story is.

  • Never share intimate photos or videos with someone you meet online – they could later use it to blackmail you.

Investment scams:

  • Don’t let anyone pressure you into making decisions about your money or investments.

  • Only invest your money with a managed fund or other investment that is licensed by ASIC and check ASIC’s MoneySmart website.

  • Do not send your money overseas for an investment offer that has come out of the blue – no matter how attractive or professional it appears.

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