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Australian scam losses hit $2.7 billion in 2023

Australians have lost almost three billion to scams in the past year, a number which is lower than 2022’s $3.1 billion.

It seems we all can’t get away from scams, and the amount of damage cybercriminals are doing to our finances is staggering hitting almost three billion dollars in 2023 alone.

The result is slightly under 2022’s losses, which hit over that awful three billion dollar amount, and shows that some of what’s being done to stop scams is working, but more work and vigilance is needed, it appears.

This week, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the ACCC, noted collectively that Australians lost a staggering amount on a variety of scams, with investment scams making the biggest dent. In the space of a year, Australians lost $1.3 billion in the category, while remote access scams saw a loss of $256 million, with romance scams in third place at $201.1 million.

Each scam is slightly different, with investment scams able to ensnare the largest amount of money quickly due to the type of accounts the scams target.

While practically every scam targets your bank account in some way or another, investment scams often target your savings, whether it’s in your bank account or somewhere safer like your superannuation. Combined with messaging purporting to be from a safe bet, such as using fraudulent images of celebrities or known people, or even using the letterheads of companies you might already trust, investment scammers can see some pretty serious amounts of money sent their way, making this area ridiculously lucrative, and putting more people at risk.

Fortunately, the ACCC says scam reports are up, and the scam losses are slightly down, though some groups are more affected than others.

Older generations are more at risk, with people over the age of 65 the only age group to see an increase in losses, many of which were impacted by investment scams.

Job scams losses increased, and affected people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, looking for work amidst the cost of living crisis we’re all in.

“Scammers are financial criminals who use sophisticated technology and psychology to rob Australians of their money and personal information,” said Catriona Lowe, Deputy Chair of the ACCC.

“Reports to Scamwatch indicate scammers are targeting older Australians with retirement savings, who may be looking for investment opportunities,” she said.

“We know of a recent case where an elderly woman lost her life savings after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video on social media, clicking the link and registering her details online. She was assigned a ‘financial advisor’ and could see on an online dashboard she was apparently making returns, but she couldn’t withdraw her money.”

That’s clearly just one of the stories Australians have, with scams occurring a variety of ways. Text messages saw the bigger number of reports in 2023, but scam calls saw losses of $116 million, while scams reported from social media increased in number, too, with $93.5 million dollars lost there, too.

With scammers pretending to be friends, and social networks doing little to change this, criminals are clearly getting away with so much, leaving everyone on the defensive no matter what they use.

Fortunately, more is happening on the scam and security front in Australia.

Banks are getting in on scam strategies to stop money from changing hands, while telcos are doing what they can to cut back on the amount of scams many Australians see.

Australia’s National Anti-Scam Centre also exists, building on the work of the ACCC’s Scamwatch program, which aims to bring together government, law, and companies to make scams less of a thing in the country.

“While the National Anti-Scam Centre has made a positive impact since it was established on 1 July 2023, there is much more work to do,” said Lowe.

“Over the next two years we will continue to invest in technology-based solutions that will centralise intelligence and distribute information to those who can act on it – such as banks to freeze accounts, telcos to block calls or SMSs and digital platforms to take down websites or accounts,” she said.

“We will partner with other organisations to tackle the most harmful scams and we will continue to raise scams awareness with the people who are most at-risk as we work towards our common goal of making Australia a harder target for scammers.”

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