Australians lost $300 million to scams in 2016

Alison Banney 15 May 2017 NEWS

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Dating and romance scams totalled $42 million in losses.

The number of Australians reporting scams reached record levels in 2016, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) annual Targeting Scams report released today.

Last year, a combined 200,000 scams were reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), with losses totalling $299.8 million. The average amount lost per person who reported a scam to ACCC’s Scamwatch alone was $7,226.

So what are the scams that Australian’s are increasingly falling victim to?

Investment related scams reported to Scamwatch and ACORN accounted for $59 million in losses, while dating and romance scams resulted in $42 million worth of losses. Around one third of these dating and romance scam victims were contacted via social media, primarily Facebook.

As such, this year’s Fraud Week theme is ‘Spot social media scams’, and aims to bring attention to online scams and how to be safe on social media.

“This Fraud Week, we’re asking the millions of Australians who use social media to be aware that scammers are increasingly using social media platforms as a way to contact, trick and prey upon the unsuspecting,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“Dating and romance scammers trick their victims into falling in love with them and then use their victim’s trust to deceitfully take their money. If someone you’ve met through social media but you’ve never met in person asks you for money, your alarm bells should be ringing. Don’t ever wire transfer or send money to someone you don’t know because you won’t see it again.”

Also on the increase are fake online stores, with victims often reporting seeing ads for these stores on social media selling heavily discounted brand name items.

Rickard says that while these online store scams may be more difficult to spot, there are some precautions you should take to protect yourself and your finances.

“Wherever you see an offer that seems more generous than normal, do your research on the company, where the product is coming from, check the company’s website and try and find any reviews about the business before making a purchase. Only pay using secure payment methods such as Paypal or a credit card,” Rickard said.

“The ACCC is working with Facebook, as well as the major banks, MoneyGram, Paypal, Western Union and Apple to better tackle scams and reduce the harm experienced by consumers.”

Don’t fall victim to these scams; check out the Scamwatch website to stay up to date.

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