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Scams Cost Australians $2 Billion Last Year

Australians were robbed of more than $2 billion by scammers in 2021, despite the safeguards stopping more potential scam activity than ever before.

The ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report compiles data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, major banks and money remitters, and other government agencies, and is based on analysis of more than 560,000 reports.

Reported losses to all organisations totalled almost $1.8 billion, but given that a third of victims do not report or notice when they are scammed, the ACCC estimates actual losses were well over $2 billion.

Investment scams were the highest loss category, account for $701 million in losses. Payment redirection scams cost Aussies $227 million, while romance scams netted $142 million.

“Scam activity continues to increase, and last year a record number of Australians lost a record amount of money,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard 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.

People aged 65 and over reported the highest losses, while scammers are increasingly targeting the vulnerable. People with disability made twice as many reports compared to 2020, and their financial losses increased by 102 per cent to $19.6 million.

Reports by Indigenous Australians increased by 43 per cent in a year, with reported losses increased by 142 per cent.

“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,” 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.

“The public and private sectors have introduced a number of new counter fraud initiatives over the last couple of years, but there are still too many gaps in the system that scammers are able to exploit.”

With scammers ubiquitous, Rickard warns that “if an investment opportunity seems too good to be true, we urge all Australians to not go anywhere near it,.”

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