Australians lose $211 million to scammers

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Australians lose $211 million to scammers

As phone-based scams spike.

Australian consumers lost $211 million to scammers in the first nine months of 2021, eclipsing the total amount they were conned out of in 2020.

The latest data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC's) Scamwatch division revealed an 89 percent increase in reported scams compared to the same time last year.

Scamwatch said that "losses, reported between January 1 and September 19 [of 2021], have already surpassed the $175.6 million reported to Scamwatch across all of last year.”

Average losses this year come in at about $11,000 compared to $7000 in 2020.

“It’s very concerning to see these scams evolving and becoming more sophisticated to steal even more money from unsuspecting people,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“While the proportion of reports involving a financial loss has dropped this year, the people who do lose money are losing bigger amounts."

Scamwatch saw a 261 percent year-on-year increase in phishing-related losses, a 144 percent increase in remote access scams, and a 234 percent increase in losses related to identity theft incidents.

The findings also showed a spike in phone-based scams, accounting for 113,000 of the 213,000 scams reported so far in 2021.

In the phone-based scams, consumers receive calls from scammers posing as employees of the likes of Amazon or eBay.

The scammers offer to process a refund but use it as a pretext to gain remote access to a victim's computer to steal personal information or demand gift cards. 

Australian consumers reportedly lost $7.25 million to remote access scammers, with most pretending to be from Telstra and NBN Co.

To tackle the rise in scams, the ACCC has been collaborating with telecommunications companies to explore investigation and call blocking opportunities.

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