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Scam losses double amid COVID lockdown

Australians shed over $27 million last month, falling victim to a spike in scamming activity.

user icon Charbel Kadib
Thu, 12 Aug 2021
Scam losses double amid COVID lockdown
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According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch, Australians lost a combined $27.1 million to scams in July 2021, up 120 per cent when compared with the same month last year.

Over 26,700 scams were reported in July, an 11 per cent increase on the previous month and an increase of 44 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

Since the start of 2021, Australians have shed over $166.2 million to scams, down just 4 per cent on the full 12 months ending 31 December 2020 ($173.3 million).

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NSW residents were hit hardest by scams in July, accounting for 37 per cent of national losses, up 13 per cent from June.

Scams reported by NSW residents also spiked, up 24 per cent from the previous month.

The spike in NSW has coincided with COVID-19 lockdowns. Findings suggest that NSW residents were most affected by scams relating to jobs and employment, which accounted for 76 per cent of financial losses.

Overall, investment scams inflicted the most damage, costing Australians $13.4 million in July across 700 reports, followed by dating and romance scams ($4.8 million), and false billing scams ($2.3 million).

Reflecting on the figures, Proofpoint ANZ area vice-president Crispin Kerr, said scam-induced losses are on track to hit a new record high.

“Scammers continue to be very active with their tactics, adapting to the latest trends and the latest data from the ACCC’s Scamwatch demonstrates how costly this is for Australians,” Kerr said.

“At the current rate, Australia is well on track to surpass the record amount lost to scammers in 2020, and we are only just over halfway through the year.”

Kerr said the trend has been exacerbated by the recent wave of COVID-induced lockdown measures.

“Scammers are evidently capitalising on the ongoing lockdown forced by the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has left many in difficult financial situations,” he observed.

“Scammers are tapping into feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to successfully steal money from hard working Australians and sadly, this kind of social engineering is proving to be very effective.”

Kerr called for greater vigilance across the community.

“We urge Australians of all ages to take extra care and to be on the lookout for scams,” he added.

“Traditional methods like phone calls are continuing to provide dividends as the most profitable delivery method, but scammers are using a variety of other methods like social networking and the Internet to target Australians.

“A few simple things to remember would be to never click through links or open attachments from unknown senders, never share personal information such as bank accounts or credit card details with someone you don’t know and only communicate with an organisation through its official channels.”

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres

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