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The Australians reported in 2020 losses to scams that totaled AU$851 million, with AU$128 million being lost to business email compromise (BEC), AU$8.4 million classed as remote access scams, and AU$3.1 million a result of identity theft.

At the top of the list of scams were found the investment scams, ripping people off to the tune of AU$328 million with the total number of scam incidents being 444,164.

The information was revealed in a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch, with the total number of scams received by Scamwatch during the 2020 calendar year being 216,087.

The most common payment method used in scams was bank transfers, with over AU$97 million lost.

From an age point of view, the people aged over 65 were the ones that reported more loss, comprising AU$37.7 million of the totals.

From a reporting perspective, the 25 to 34-year old bracket made the most reports to Scamwatch, with 33,000 reports, with the victims being almost 50-50 among those that identified as men and those that identified as women.

Phone calls were still the number one method for scammers to use, at 47.7%, or 103,153 scams, with email accounting for 22%, text message for 15%, “internet” for 6.3%, and 4.5% of victims were spoofed via social media.

Looking at the data from 2019, remote access scam reported losses increased more than 74% to AU$8.4 million and threat-based scam reported losses increased more than 178% to AU$11.8 million, with 8,691 scams being attributed to “hacking”, 3,885 to ransomware and malware, and phishing accounted for 44,079 reports.

Health and medical scam reported losses increased more than 2,000% compared with 2019 as a result of the pandemic, reaching over AU$3.9 million.

The businesses reported scam losses that increased by 260% in 2020, to AU$18 million, businesses being the ones to give the most reports about false billing and phishing scams.

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WhatsApp was added as an option in the reporting form in 2020, thus making the ACCC received 347 reports by selecting WhatsApp from the drop-down menu, with scam reports listing the contact mode as social networking/online forum and identifying the platform as dating app Tinder increased from 73 in 2019 to 174 in 2020.

Each year the impact of scams increases in Australia. In 2020, scams caused significant financial and other losses at a time when many were already experiencing hardship. However, without the increased focus and initiatives by the government, law enforcement, and the private sector, the harm would likely have been much worse.
The increasing losses and reports to the ACCC and other agencies demonstrate the need for a continued and concerted whole of a community effort to raise awareness of, prevent and disrupt scams. We all have a role to play, whether it is as law enforcement pursuing scammers, businesses, and platforms investing in new technology and educating consumers about scams on their websites, or as individuals learning about how to avoid scams and sharing information with family and friends.


Author Profile

Dora Tudor

Cyber Security Enthusiast

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Dora is a digital marketing specialist within Heimdal™ Security. She is a content creator at heart - always curious about technology and passionate about finding out everything there is to know about cybersecurity.

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