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This scam costing Australians $22m more than the dating scams

Investment scams cost Australians more money than dating scams last year, with losses of more than $60 million, an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report has discovered.

Combined data from the ACCC and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) found investment scams cost Australian consumers $64 million in 2017. The average reported loss was $53,827, with 20 reports of losses of $400,000 or more.

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ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said there had been both an increase in the amount of money people were losing to investment scams and an increase in people reporting them.

“Until recently, it’s usually been dating and romance scams that have had the highest losses but they have been overtaken by investment scams in the last year, and people are losing significant amounts of money to them,” she said.

Investment scams offer a range of fake financial opportunities with the promise of quick returns, often using smooth talking, glossy brochures or professional-looking websites to lure victims.

“They’re not particularly new scams,” Ms Rickard said. “However, I think in low inflation times, at low interest rate returns, it makes investments more attractive to people who are concerned about things like their retirement income.”

Dating and relationship scams were still second for sheer cost, with Australians losing just over $42 million to those scams last year, equal with the year before.

Ms Rickard, who is also chair of the Scams Awareness Network, said while the number of reported dating and relationship scams had dropped, the platforms used by scammers have started to change.

“Scams are increasingly being delivered by social media, places like Facebook, so it’s important to be vigilant,” she said.

“Certainly romance scams particularly have shifted to social media – they used to all be once through dating sites.”

Across scams reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, ACORN and other government agencies, Australians lost a whopping $340 million to scams in 2017, the report concluded.

That figure is $40 million more than in 2016, and the first time reported losses have risen above $300 million, the ACCC deputy chair said.

“I think even that over-$340 million figure … significantly understates the extent of losses to scams,” she said.

Older people are more vulnerable to all types of cons, with people aged 55 to 64 losing the most money, followed by those aged over 65.

More women reported falling victim to scams than men, but “men tend to lose more money, and that’s probably because men tend to have more money than women,” Ms Rickard said.

“In terms of the scams where you lose a great deal of money, women are more likely to be the victims of romance scams, men are more likely to be the victims of investment scams.”

From reports to the ACCC alone, men reported losses of $22.8 million to investment scams, while women lost $12.7 million to dating and romance scams.

The most common scams reported to the ACCC and ACORN were false billing scams, identity theft and phishing. The ACCC’s report found the real cost of those types of scams was difficult to quantify as the primary aim of the scammer is to gather information for future use.

“The ACCC received over 55,000 reports of these kinds of scams in 2017 and there is little doubt that many more were encountered but not reported,” the report said.

Ms Rickard said there was also an increase in scams involving cryptocurrencies.

“Whether it’s fake exchanges – so you’re not really investing in the real thing – or people asking to be paid by cryptocurrency, that would be another new trend for this year,” she said.

For people worried about scams, Ms Rickard said the Scamwatch website has much helpful information.

“You really will find all the information about scams that are going around, how to identify them, how to avoid them, and what to do if you’ve been scammed,” she said.

The ACCC also has a hard-copy publication, The Little Black Book of Scams, which Ms Rickard said is especially helpful for older people.

A scammer’s trick which involved posing as an officer from the ATO duped many Australians in late 2017. Would you have been wiser? The author here was almost the victim of an attempted scam as per above only just days ago. May 2018. I gave the caller both barrels through the phone. The recorded mesage was in great English.Calling back the number a male Indian voice responded & said he was with the Australian Tax Office. That 02..number is now silent..

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Henry Sapiecha

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