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Phishing for fools: 15 million Australians have received a fraudulent text or phone call this year


A staggering number of Australians are falling victim to fake text and phone call scams, according to new research by Finder.

A nationally representative survey of 1,058 respondents revealed 3 in 4 Australians (75%) – equivalent to 15 million people – have received a fraudulent text message or phone call this year.

Worryingly, only 21% reported the scam, while 4% didn't realise until later it was a hoax.

The research coincides with Scams Awareness Week which runs from 7–11 November and aims to educate consumers on how to spot a scam.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians lost more than $2 billion to scams in 2021, with around $10 million lost through text messages.

Data from Scamwatch shows more than 50,000 phishing scams were reported so far in 2022.

Sarah Megginson, money expert at Finder, said scams are becoming more prevalent in the age of technology.

"Aussies have been inundated with fraudulent texts and phone calls in recent years, and know how easy it can be to fall victim to these scams.

"Telcos are now taking a more active approach to deter these scams, but it's still important to know how to spot one."

On 30 June 2022, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) registered new rules to require telcos to identify, trace and block SMS scams.

Under these new rules telcos could face up to $250,000 in fines for not complying with this new code.

Megginson urged Aussies to ignore calls from unknown numbers.

"Let the caller go to voicemail. If they leave a number, you can check if it matches a real business online.

"Be especially cautious if you get a message in WhatsApp or on Facebook claiming to be from a relative who has lost their phone and now needs help. This is the so-called 'Mum scam', and is responsible for $2.6 million in losses in the first 7 months of the year.

"Don't ever reply to or click on links in text messages. These could link to viruses and other nasties, or fake sites looking to steal your personal data.

"Read text messages carefully. Poor grammar and spelling are often a giveaway that the SMS is fraudulent."

Finder research shows 3 in 5 Australians (61%) have already begun shopping for gifts, with just under 50 days left until Christmas.

In the lead-up to Christmas, Megginson encouraged shoppers to be vigilant following a rise in scams.

"Sales frenzies can leave room for scammers to take advantage of shoppers rushing to bag a bargain and organise gifts in the lead-up to the holiday season.

"If you're looking for the best deals online, you may come across some genuine-looking scam sites selling items at heavily discounted prices.

"If you're unsure if the site is reputable, a quick Google search for reviews will generally bring you up to speed and can also help you identify if the products are legitimate.

"If you think you've been scammed, contact your bank and phone company immediately and report it to Scamwatch," Megginson said.

Have you received a scam/fraudulent text message or phone call this year?
Yes, but I didn't report it50%
Yes, and I reported it21%
I'm not sure5%
Yes, but I didn't realise until later that it was a scam4%
Source: Finder survey of 1,058 respondents, August 2022

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