The study is also an analysis of more than 560,000 reports.
Reported losses to organisations amounted to almost $1.8 billion, but the organisations noted that one-third of victims do not report scams to the ACCC.
Investment scams were the highest loss category ($701 million) in 2021, followed by payment redirection scams ($227 million), and romance scams ($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 says.
“The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families, and businesses,” Rickard adds
Based on the Scamwatch report in 2021, women reported the most scams but men lost more money than women.
Men’s losses to investment scams were double than women’s losses.
In culturally and linguistically diverse communities, women had slightly higher losses than men, the report adds.
People aged 65 and over reported the highest losses.
Losses steadily increased among people who are older.
In 2021, Scamwatch received record levels of reports and losses from who are experiencing financial hardships.
People with 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 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,” Dickard says.
ACCC research shows that scams are almost ubiquitous in Australia today. Ninety-six percent of respondents had been exposed to scammers in the previous five years, and 20% had fallen victim. 56 percent were unable to recover any of it.
In 2021, the ACCC collaborated with government agencies, domestic and international law enforcement, and major banks and telecommunications providers to fight against scam and raise awareness in communities.
An international effort involving the Australian Federal Police led to the Flubot scam being stopped earlier this year.
In 2021, the telecommunications sector’s new Reducing Scam Calls Industry Code resulted in more than 357 million scam calls being blocked, the ACCC claimed.
“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,” Rickard laments.
Scamwatch data shows that between 2020 and 2021 there was a 60% reduction in losses from inheritance and unexpected money scams, and only a 1% increase in losses from travel, prizes and lottery scams. Conversely, losses from investment scams increased by 169% over the 12 months.
“We have seen a marked decline in some of the older, low-end scams and an enormous increase in more sophisticated ‘white-collar’ fraud, such as cryptocurrency investment scams,” Rickard says.
“There was a spike last year in scams relating to pyramid and ponzi schemes, largely due to the emergence of some sophisticated ponzi investment scam apps.”
“If an investment opportunity seems too good to be true, we urge all Australians to not go anywhere near it.”