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Monday, 16 May 2016 10:24

Scam losses for Aussies soar to $229 million Featured

Scam losses for Aussies soar to $229 million Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,

Scammers hit over 100,000 unsuspecting Australians last year cheating them out of a whopping $229 million, according to the latest Scamwatch report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The massive amount lost to scammers combines losses reported to the ACCC itself of $85 million,  $127 million reported by the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), and a further $17.1 million of estimated losses to Australians sending funds to ‘high risk’ jurisdictions.

In all, the ACCC received 105,200 scam complaints for 2015, a slight increase over the 91,600 complaints from scam victims in 2014 when the ACCC itself reported losses of $82 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,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Rickard said this is the first time the ACCC has 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".

“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% increase in complaints,” 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.”

Rickard said 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 55’s in 2015.”

In 2015, Scamwatch reports for fraudulent investment schemes across all age groups doubled to over $24 million, with 1,262 complaints – and, 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 that age group.

Rickard warned that investment 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," Rickard cautions.

“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.”

In 2015, Scamwatch reports for dating and romance scams decreased slightly but the ACCC say 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 total\ $15 million and the Rickard says that 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 links take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media,” Rickard warns.

“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.”

Rickard says the ACCC is continuing to alert potential victims to dating scams through its Scam Disruption Project.

“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.”

To read the full ACCC report on scam activity in 2015 click here, or click here to view the ACORN scam report.

Here’s the ACCC’s top tips to assist in potentially avoiding scams:

Dating & 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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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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