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Scam alert: Aussies lost over $850 million in 2020 to scammers

- June 8, 2021 2 MIN READ
Steve Martin and Michael Caine scam unsuspecting people in the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Aussies lost a whopping $851 million to scams and made 444,164 scam reports in 2020 according to a new report by the ACCC.

The Targeting Scams report found losses to scammers had increased by 23 per cent from 2019, jumping $176 million on the 2019 figure.

The top three scams

Australians were most likely to fall victim to investment scams, racking up $328 million in losses reported to Scamwatch, ASIC and other financial institutions. $131 million was lost to romance scams, with reports of catfishing increasing, while small business owners fell victim to over $128 million in losses due to business email compromise scams.

Scams target all ages.

The report discovered scammers were targeting people of all ages. Yet not all age groups were as susceptible to grifters.  Those aged 18-24 were least likely to report or record a loss from a scam. Unfortunately, retirees were not so lucky, with those ages 65+ reporting 18 .1 per cent of scams and 23 per cent of the losses to a tune of $37.7 million.

The biggest losers

Men lost marginally more than women, with $88 million and $87.4 million reported respectively. Although men were more likely to fall prey to an investment scam, with half their losses (44.7 million) coming from this area. Women were most likely to be duped by a romance scam – losing $28.1 million to catfishing Romeos.

Personal information at risk from scammers

Unsurprisingly in 2020, 25 per cent of all reports involved the loss of personal information, up from 16 per cent in 2019. Loss of personal information was even higher among Indigenous consumers, where 36 per cent of all reports involved the loss of personal information. The increasing value of personal information at a time when face to face transactions were not possible was a significant driver of scam activity in 2020.

“Similarly, identity theft reports increased by 84 per cent to over 20,000 reports. A number of government taskforces and law enforcement noted the increase in crimes aimed at stealing personal information and connected this to conduct aimed at fraudulently accessing COVID-19 related initiatives such as early access to superannuation,” said Delia Rickard Deputy Chair, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Chair of Scams Awareness Network

Locked down Victorians a target of scams

For the first time, Victorians had the highest reported losses to Scamwatch, with losses of $49,096,516 (an increase of 115 per cent from 2019 losses).

Rickard believes lockdown played a role in the increase.

“We believe this is likely attributable to the long lockdown periods the population experienced in 2020, which created opportunities for scammers as people were forced into unusual economic and social situations that had the potential to increase their susceptibility to scams.”

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