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Fake Bill Con Artists Stole $128m From Oz Businesses Last Year

The ACCC is sounding the alarm to businesses on payment redirection scams, which cost Australian companies a staggering $128 million in 2020.

The figure, revealed in the consumer watchdog’s latest Targeting Scams report, comes from total losses reported to Scamwatch, as well as other government agencies, banks, and payment platforms; Scamwatch alone received reports of business scams totalling $18 million, a 260 per cent increase on 2019.

False billing scams, including payment redirection or business email compromise (BEC) scams – where criminals impersonate a business (telcos such as Telstra or Optus are a favourite) via email and request payments be sent to fraudulent accounts – were the most commonly reported, accounting for three quarters of total losses.

Mick Keogh, ACCC.

According to ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh, 60 per cent of false billing reports came from small and micro-businesses with 19 staff or fewer.

“Small and micro businesses made most of the reports to Scamwatch and experienced an increase in losses in 2020, although larger businesses reported the highest losses,” he said.

Scamwatch alone saw 1300 reports of BEC scams in 2020, with $14 million in losses, a big jump from the 900 reports and $5 million in losses from 2019.

Health and medical scams cost businesses around $2 million (as reported to Scamwatch) as they scrambled to secure personal protective equipment for staff during the pandemic, while phishing, identity theft, and hacking scams also drained company coffers.

“One thing we know about scammers is that they will take advantage of a crisis.

“It is so important for businesses to stay informed about scams so they can protect themselves,” said Keogh.

The ACCC is urging businesses who fear they have been scammed to contact their banks as soon as possible, and to make reports through platforms such as Scamwatch and ReportCyber.

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