Australians lost a record $340 million last year to scammers

Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

It’s much easier to be scammed out of money than you might think.

In fact, Australians lost a jaw-dropping $340 million last year to scammers.

It’s the largest amount of money lost to scammers than in any other year since the ACCC began reporting on scam activity nine years ago.

A staggering 200,000 reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017.

Australians lost most of their money to investment scams in 2017, with more than $64 million in losses reported to Scamwatch in this category, a 33% increase increase on 2016’s figures.

Dating scams were also high on the the list too, with Australians losing more than $42 million to love and romance-based scams.

Some of these scams can be incredibly frightening for victims. Threatening scams were high on the list as well, with just over $2 million lost to scams involving threats to life, arrest and deportation.

A recent scam that gained notoriety is the Chinese scam reported by the Sydney Morning Herald. Scammers targeted the Chinese community in Australia by making threatening calls that appear to come from the Chinese embassy in Canberra.

One of the reporters on the Business Insider Australia team was even targeted.

The SMH reported that “the caller claims to be a government official and will tell the victim they are in trouble (possibly implicated in a crime or their identity has been stolen), and that this could impact on their visa to stay in Australia or cause harm to their family back home.”

“The victim is then told the call will be transferred to the ‘investigators’ or ‘police’, who will demand personal details, including bank accounts, PINs, passports, family information, and in some cases, cash payments.”

“They are then told not to speak to friends or family as it may put them in danger too.”

$6,471 is the average amount an Australian lost on a scam. ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said “in some cases people have lost more than $1 million”.

She said scammers are becoming more aware of how to successfully target vulnerable people.

“Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot. Scammers use modern technology like social media to contact and deceive their victims. In the past few years, reports indicate scammers are using aggressive techniques both over the phone and online.”

40% of scams reported were conducted over the phone, which saw $29 million lost, followed by email (31% and $17 million) and text message scams (12% and $1 million).

Men seemed to be more unlucky with scams than women last year. Where women lost more than $37 million, men lost more than $51 million.

If you think you have been targeted by a scam, report it to ScamWatch.

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