Australians lost at least $6.1 million to cryptocurrency-based scams last year, with the highest reported losses stemming from ‘investment scams’.
The figure is a significant increase on the losses reported by victims during 2017, when cryptocurrency values peaked at almost $20,000.
“This is a 190 per cent increase over the $2.1 million reported in 2017,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in its annual scam report [pdf] released today.
It makes cryptocurrency-based scams the second highest unusual payment method for losses, ahead of those using gift cards like Apple iTunes cards or Google Pay cards.
Of the 674 reports received by the ACCC, almost 50 percent were made by men between the ages of 25 and 34.
However the watchdog also warned that the true cost of the scams was likely to be higher as many victims will embarrassed to report it or entirely unaware.
The highest reported loses – at just over 40 percent – were attributed to cryptocurrency-based ‘investment scams’ where individuals are duped into dummy investment opportunities such as fake initial coin offerings.
“Victims reported being tricked by online scammers into purchasing various cryptocurrencies through the scammer’s software platform, but, as with other investment scams, when they tried to cash out, the scammers either made excuses or were no longer contactable,” the ACCC said.
“These investment scams also included scammers asking for payment in cryptocurrency for forex trading, commodity trading or other investment opportunities.”
The ACCC also said it received reports from victims being directed to a Bitcoin ATM to convert money to Bitcoin before transferring it to the scammer.
An example of this played out in Victoria last year, with at least four victims directed to pay bogus tax debts to the value of $50,000 via Bitcoin ATM’s in the west Melbourne suburb of Braybrook.
Elsewhere, the data release today shows a 95 percent increase in remote access scams, with $4.8 million reported as having been lost during 2018.
This is only marginally more than the $4.4 million revealed to have been lost to remote access scams between January and August last year.
Hacking was also a major cause of reported loses, netting $3.1 million from 502 individuals – an increase of 83.3 percent on 2017 figures.