More than 200,000 Australians reported scams to authorities in 2016, a 47% increase on the previous year.
Releasing its annual Targeting Scams report this week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said its own Scamwatch group, along with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) said the record level of report also led to losses totalling nearly $300 million.
Investment scams were responsible for the most losses, totalling $59 million, followed by dating and romance scams at $42 million lost.
Scamwatch said people aged over 55 accounted for 45% and social media played an increasing role in how scammers contact their victims, with around 30% of people caught up in romance scam victims (1352 people), targeted on social media, especially Facebook. The other common social media scam is “fake trader”.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said fake trader scams are on the rise and hard to spot.
Victims often report seeing ads for online stores, which are fake, on social media selling discounted products by well-known brands.
These online stores are fake.
“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.
She said the 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 damage they cause.
The ACCC publishes a regularly updated list of scams on its Scamwatch website and also has has a “Little Black Book of Scams” to download.
The warnings come as the Commonwealth Bank issued a warning over a text message scam seeking the account details of customers by trying to trick them into attempting to log into a fake CBA website.
And another phone scam known has “can you hear me?” has also been doing the rounds in recent weeks.
Victims receive an unsolicited phone call, with the scammer repeatedly asking “Can you hear me?” in the hope that people will say “yes”.
Police suspect they are recording the “yes” response to use it to authorise payments or charges to your bank account, having obtained other details elsewhere.
Police say you should hang up or if you said yes, contact your financial institution and let them know immediately.
Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of how scams played out in Australia in 2016:
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