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ACCC scam report

Australians made more than 600,000 reports about scams in 2023 — about 18 per cent more than in 2022.(ABC News: Evan Young/Canva)

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  • In short: Australians made more than 600,000 scam reports last year, losing $2.7 billion overall.
  • Older people suffered the greatest losses and there was a notable increase in scams originating on social media, the ACCC's new report says.
  • What's next? The government wants to introduce mandatory scam codes for banks, telcos and digital platforms.

Australians reported a record number of scams last year, with losses totalling $2.7 billion, a new report from the consumer watchdog has revealed.

More than 601,000 reports about scams were made in 2023, up from the 507,000 reported in 2022, the latest Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Targeting Scams report found.

Investment scams stole more than any other type of scam, accounting for more than $1.3 billion in losses, the report said.

People over 65 were more likely to lose money than any other age group and were the only age group that lost more money in 2023 than in 2022.

What types of scams stole the most?

  • Investment scams: $1.3b
  • Remote access: $256m
  • Romance: $201.1m 
  • Phishing: $137.4m 
  • Payment redirection: $91.6m  

Source: ACCC Targeting Scams report 

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said the figures indicated scammers were targeting older Australians with retirement savings who might be looking for investment opportunities.

"We know of a recent case where an elderly woman lost her life savings after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video on social media, clicking the link and registering her details online," Ms Lowe said.

"She was assigned a 'financial adviser' and could see on an online dashboard. She was apparently making returns but she couldn't withdraw her money."

Victims losing their 'life savings' to scams

Despite the number of reported scams increasing, the amount lost is down compared to 2022, when Australians lost a record $3.1 billion.

The federal government said this was the first time in six years that scam losses decreased year-on-year.

The ACCC said the decline in losses was thanks to an increased effort from banks and government in 2023.

Last July, following pressure from victims and consumer groups, the federal government launched a national anti-scams centre, while the banking sector also promised to invest in increased security.

"While we are cautiously optimistic that our combined efforts will see this downward trend in scam losses continue, we know that behind the losses remain real people who have lost money, often their life savings, to scams," the ACCC report said.

The ACCC's report is based on data from multiple agencies including Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange, IDCARE and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Top tips to avoid scams

STOP: Don't rush to act. Scammers will create a sense of urgency.

THINK: Ask yourself if you really know who you are communicating with? Scammers can impersonate others and lie about who they are – especially online.

PROTECT: Act quickly if something feels wrong. If you have shared financial information or transferred money, contact your bank immediately. Help others by reporting to Scamwatch.

Source: ACCC 

Scamwatch's data shows that while losses to scams conducted via text message or over the phone decreased, the amount of money lost to scams over email and social media grew.

Losses to job scams rose by 151 per cent to $24.3 million, with people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities disproportionately impacted.

The true losses are likely to be higher because an estimated one in three scam victims do not report the crime to authorities.

Research commissioned by Treasury last year indicated those from First Nations and CALD communities might be less likely to report scams.

Government says scam losses still 'far too high'

Ms Lowe said the reduced losses were "encouraging" but there was "much more work to do".

"Over the next two years we will continue to invest in technology-based solutions that will centralise intelligence and distribute information to those who can act on it – such as banks to freeze accounts, telcos to block calls or SMSs and digital platforms to take down websites or accounts," Ms Lowe said.

Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones said the government would soon introduce new mandatory scam codes for banks, telcos and digital platforms, backed up by strong penalties for non-compliance.

"We want Australia to be a world leader in combating scammers and our mandatory codes will put us well ahead," he said.

"While the report shows positive early signs, scam losses remain far too high and we urge Australians to remain alert to the threat of scammers and report any suspicious activity."

 

 

 

By the Specialist Reporting Team's Evan Young and Leonie Thorne

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