$3 billion: the shocking figure Aussies lost to scams last year

Scams have become even more expensive, with Australians losing more than $3 billion to them in 2022, according to a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Targeting Scams, the latest report from the ACCC on scam activity, found that Australians lost a staggering $3.1 billion to the nefarious practice last year. This report combines data from government agencies including ACCC’s Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX), IDCARE and more.

One particularly interesting finding was that there were fewer scams reported to Scamwatch in 2022, but the overall financial loss was greater. $569 million in losses marks a significant 76% increase over 2021’s figures. This stemmed from 239,237 scams reported to ACCC’s service, with data from other agencies counted towards the $3.1 billion total.

Which scams took the most money?

Investment scams resulted in the most devastating financial losses, amassing $1.5 billion in ill-gotten money. In a distant second and third place were remote access scams followed by payment redirection scams.

Text messages to mobile phones were the most popular method employed by scammers, relating to nearly 80,000 Scamwatch reports. According to ACCC’s data, roughly $28 million in losses occurred from these messages. Most damaging by far, however, were scams conducted via phone calls. Of the 63,821 reported incidents, a huge $141 million came from phone scams. Email also remains a threat, coming in as the third-most reported scam medium, responsible for $77 million in lost money.

Aside from investment scams, other ways scammers tried to take your money included phishing and identity theft. Even those looking for companionship weren’t safe, with dating and romance scams resulting in notable losses. These incidents impact vulnerable people in multiple ways, as explained by ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe.

“Australians lost more money to scams than ever before in 2022, but the true cost of scams is much more than a dollar figure as they also cause emotional distress to victims, their families and businesses,” Lowe said. “As scammers become increasingly sophisticated in their tactics, it is clear a coordinated response across government, law enforcement and the private sector is essential to combat scams more effectively.”

Targeting Scams: how you can avoid them

Even the most tech-literate person can be fooled by a well-targeted scam. One measure currently rolling out is a government-funded National Anti-Scams Centre, with $12.6 million allocated over four years to combat scams.

At home, there are easy ways to stop a scam in its tracks. Scamwatch uses the Stop, Think, Protect approach.

Firstly, stop and carefully read any communication you receive, whether it be over the phone or online. If you’re asked to provide payment details or personal information, think about whether the sender is who they claim to be. If you’re not sure, don’t click on any links or attachments, and contact the institution directly. Finally, you can protect yourself by contacting your bank if you fear your account has been compromised.

If you encounter a scam, report it to Scamwatch, which also has information on the latest cybersecurity happenings.

Read more eSafety news on GadgetGuy