According to the latest Targeting Scams report, Australians suffered a significant financial blow in 2022, losing a record-breaking $3.1 billion to scams. This figure represents an alarming 80% increase from the previous year’s losses, highlighting the growing threat posed by scammers. Investment scams topped the list as the highest loss category, accounting for a staggering $1.5 billion. Following closely behind were remote access scams, with losses amounting to $229 million, and payment redirection scams at $224 million.
ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe emphasized the devastating impact of scams, extending beyond just financial losses. Scammers also inflict emotional distress on their victims, their families, and businesses. As scammers continue to evolve and employ sophisticated tactics, a coordinated response involving government agencies, law enforcement, and the private sector is necessary to combat this pervasive issue effectively.
More Reporting Needed
Although there were fewer reports to Scamwatch in 2022, the financial losses reported increased by a concerning 76% compared to the previous year. Each victim experienced a rise of over 50% in losses, averaging nearly $20,000. Scammers are leveraging new technologies to deceive victims, making it increasingly difficult to detect their fraudulent activities.
The past year witnessed a significant surge in phishing scams, with reported losses skyrocketing by a staggering 469% to $24.6 million.
Large-scale data breaches in 2022 left millions of Australians more vulnerable to scams, as scammers capitalized on stolen personal information to carry out identity theft and remote access scams. While collaboration among government agencies, law enforcement, and industry stakeholders increased in response to these breaches, there are still gaps that scammers exploit.
The ACCC advocates for a three-pronged approach to tackle scams effectively. First, efforts should focus on disrupting scammers’ contact methods, such as phone calls, SMS, emails, and social media messages. Second, providing consumers with up-to-date information is crucial in equipping them to identify and avoid scams. Finally, implementing measures to prevent funds from being transferred to scammers is essential.
Record financial losses were experienced by vulnerable individuals and communities in 2022. People with disabilities reported losses of $33.7 million, Indigenous Australians reported losses of $5.1 million, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities suffered losses of $56 million, a 36% increase from the previous year. This disparity highlights the need for targeted support and intervention to protect these groups from falling victim to scams.
The impact on small and micro businesses was also significant, with losses amounting to $13.7 million, a 95% increase compared to the previous year.
Payment redirection scams, also known as business email compromise, were the primary driver of these losses. Overall, scam losses within the Australian business community soared by 73% in 2022, totaling $23.2 million.
To combat this growing menace, continued collaboration and proactive measures are vital. The ACCC remains committed to supporting the establishment of the Government’s National Anti-Scam Centre, aiming to make Australia the hardest target for scammers. It is essential for banks, telcos, digital platforms, and regulators to work together to enhance customer protection and minimize vulnerabilities. By joining forces, we can create a safer environment and prevent further financial losses to scams.