Australians Losing Money To Scams On The Rise: How To Protect Yourself

Every year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) compile a report on how many Australians are getting conned by scammers, what scams are working on us and how much money we’re losing.

This year’s findings show that $85 million was reported lost to the ACCC’s Scamwatch last year, with 105,200 scam complaints. That’s a $3 million increase in money lost, and a 15 per cent rise in complaints — with the top culprits being investment and online dating scams.

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“This Fraud Week, the ACCC is urging the community to ‘Wise Up to Scams’”, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said. “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.”

For the first time, the ACCC has also reviewed data from other jurisdictions that receive reports or detect scams to get a clearer picture of the significance of losses caused by scam activity in Australia. After removing those scams reported to the ACCC, reports to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) revealed losses of over $127 million in 2015, from 25,600 complaints.

Various scam disruption programs also detect Australians sending funds to high risk jurisdictions and a combined estimate of losses to this unreported scam activity is $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. We know that in reality the actual total is higher still as many people never report that they’ve been scammed,” Ms Rickard said.

In 2015, Scamwatch reports for fraudulent investment schemes across all age groups doubled to over $24 million, with 1,262 complaints. If you add in the investment scams reported to ACORN the total amount reported comes to over $41 million. Of those reported to Scamwatch, almost $6.3 million was lost to victims over 55, with 213 complaints from this age group.

These scams pose a significant risk for Australians looking for investment opportunities, especially those looking to grow their retirement funds.

“Investment scams come in many guises including business ventures, superannuation schemes, managed funds and the sale or purchase of shares or property,” the ACCC warns. “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,” Ms Rickard said.

In 2015, Scamwatch reports for dating and romance scams decreased slightly but were still significant with just under $23 million in reported losses from 2,620 complaints. Of this $5.6 million was lost to victims over 55, with 464 complaints from this age group.

ACORN reports for romance scams totals $15 million. When you add these losses to those from the disruption work ($17m), this 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,” the ACCC says. “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,” Ms Rickard said.

Her’s some tips to avoid the two main types of scams:

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 of 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 you 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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