In 2016, the ACCC’s Scamwatch and the ACORN received a combined 200,000 reports about scams. Losses reported to Scamwatch, ACORN and other scam disruption programs totalled $299.8 million.
There’s a good chance you either have been or will be the target of a scam. But as you’re reading the ADF Consumer newsletter, it is almost guaranteed you hit the delete button or hung up on the call because you know what a scam looks like. Most people do. But more people than ever are falling for scams and losing more money than ever. In fact, in 2016 Australians lost $6 million a week to scams.
The ACCC’s Targeting Scams report was released in May to launch the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce’s Fraud Week. This year’s theme, ‘Spot social media scams’, aims to create awareness among Australians about new social media scams that are being reported, what to look for and how people can avoid being scammed.
Australians aged over 55 accounted for 45 per cent of reports to Scamwatch. Investment scams accounted for the most losses with combined reports to Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) totalling $59 million. Dating and romance scams accounted for the next highest losses, with a combined $42 million lost. Around 30 per cent of dating and romance scam victims (1352 people) who reported to Scamwatch were contacted via social media sites, usually Facebook.
The challenge is that it is increasingly difficult to determine who is genuine and who is fake.
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 will never get the money back.
Fake trader scams are also on the increase. Victims often report seeing advertisements for online stores on social media selling discounted products made by well-known brands. These online stores are fake and the products victims think they are buying don’t exist.
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 to find any reviews about the business before making a purchase. Only pay using secure payment methods such as Paypal or a credit card.
The majority of reports to Scamwatch about social media scams take place on Facebook.
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.
The best defence against scams is education and awareness. To learn more, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au to keep up to date with scams to look out for, report scam activity, and get information about what to do if you become a scam victim.
Delia Rickard is Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission