Losses mount up as scammers hit hard in 2019

There’s bad news for Australians, as last year’s losses to scams look to go even higher this year.

Scammers are hitting harder than ever, and with our identities and finances at risk, there’s little surprise as to why. Scams are big money for criminals, and until we learn how to recognise the cons, close those windows, hang up those phone calls, and stay on guard from scams, they seem to be getting worse.

This week, the Australia Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has projected this year’s losses are likely to exceed half a billion dollars for the first time, supported by new scams such as some built around the promise of making money in cryptocurrency.

According to the ACCC, cryptocurrency investment scams have seen reports of $14.76 million dollars in losses in the first six months off this year alone, with faked celebrity endorsements helping them along.

You might see a celebrity you know from TV talking up a Bitcoin investment scam offering big money, but the reality is these could be fake. Scammers know all too well how we can be manipulated, and that endorsements help that along, making it easier to fall for the scam.

“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” said Delia Richard, Deputy Chair of the ACCC.

“Our advice is to be wary of ads you see on the internet. Don’t be persuaded by celebrity endorsements or ‘not to be missed’ opportunities,” she said. “You never know for certain who you’re dealing with or whether they’re credible.”

Scammers are also leveraging the accounts of your friends on social media, breaking in and using people you know as a guise to convince you to hand over money.

Social media scams may be pushed through Facebook Messenger, and are a form of social engineering often about “claiming money”. Unfortunately, these lead to scammers claiming money from you. If a friend starts contacting you about needing to claim money, especially if it’s out of the blue, consider asking them a question only the real person would know, such as how a pet’s name is doing in a new job. The real friend would think you’re mad, but a scammer would likely just answer with something like “good” or “great”.

“If you think you’re speaking to a friend on social media, call them, or find another way to contact them before acting on any advice that might result in you giving away your personal details or money,” said Ms Rickard.

Being smart about scams is the only way we’ll end up beating them, and prevent losses from rising. Be vigilant and keep looking for telltale signs that what you could be seeing is fake. The more you know and question, the less likely you’ll end up as one of the statistics in an ACCC report.