Scammers double down as Australians lose millions during the pandemic


Australians lost $295 million to scams in the first half of 2022, more than double the same period last year, as scammers double down on efforts to swindle consumers during the pandemic.

While losses to scams have increased significantly since last year, the total number of scams reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch has decreased by 15 per cent, according to analysis by cybersecurity company Proofpoint. This suggests scammers are becoming more effective and sophisticated when stealing personal information and syphoning money from fewer attempts.

March 2022 saw the single greatest monthly loss on Scamwatch’s record, with $95 million in losses reported, while January saw the greatest number of reports for the year at more than 21,000.

Investment scams were the most financially damaging during the first half of 2022, causing more than $219 million in losses, compared to $177 million lost throughout the entirety of 2021. This was followed by dating and romance scams, which cost Australians $16 million in the first half of 2022.

Australians aged over 65 reported the greatest losses to scams over the period, totalling $51 million. Men accounted for 61 per cent ($181 million) in losses, compared to 37 per cent ($111 million) for women.

Rather than focus on spam emails, scammers favoured phone calls – with 33,403 reports of scam calls to Scamwatch, followed by text message scams with 32,700 reports.

“In light of this rise in SMS scams, it is encouraging to see the ACCC register new rules for telecommunications providers to help stop scam messages from reaching customers,” says Adrian Covich – Senior Director, Technical Sales, Asia Pacific and Japan at Proofpoint.

“While this is a step in the right direction, we urge Australians to continue to be vigilant about any unsolicited communications and not to solely rely on these measures to stop scams from getting through.”

As scammers double down on their efforts, Proofpoint’s tips to avoid being scammed include:

  • Never share personal or financial information including bank account or credit card details with someone you don’t know. 
  • Do not click through links or open attachments from unknown senders whether that’s over email, text, social media or online. 
  • Look out for spelling and grammatical errors, these can suggest a message is a scam. 
  • Only communicate with an organisation through official channels found on company websites, do not reply directly to emails or click on links provided. 
  • Do not share passwords with people and ensure you change passwords regularly. Consider using a password manager to help protect your personal information from being stolen. 
  • Be cautious about phone calls or emails that come out of the blue with investment offers or travel and other prizes.

More on scams at GadgetGuy.