There is a saying ‘a fool and his money are often parted’ but with scammers becoming ever more devious and sophisticated in their methods, it pays for everyone to be aware of the latest tricks being employed.
According to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) data, last year was the worst year on record for the amount lost to scammers, with a record $323 million lost during 2021. This represents a concerning increase of 84% on the previous year.i
And with Australians spending more time online than ever before, predictably the area of most growth is cybercrime.
Cybercrime increased by over 13% during the 2020-21 financial year, with data revealing one attack occurs every 8 minutes. ii
Police records indicate that as the number of house break-ins and burglaries decreased through COVID, the amount of digital scams increased as criminal activity found an alternative outlet and moved online.iii Scammers also exploited the pandemic environment by targeting an increasing reliance on online activity and digital information and services.
Most common scams
Phishing, where scammers try to get you to reveal information that enables them to access your money (or in some cases steal your identity), is one of the most common scams. Last year Scamwatch, a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), received more than 44,000 reports of phishing, costing Australians $1.6 million.iv While some phishing scams are obvious, like free giveaways, you can also be directed to sites that masquerade as financial providers or government departments and they can look pretty official.
The trick to not be taken in is to be very wary of clicking on a pop-up or unknown site and do an independent google search or verify the site is secure. Before submitting any information, make sure the site’s URL begins with “https” and there should be a closed lock icon near the address bar. It’s also a good idea to keep your browser and antivirus software up to date.
Scams that cost us the most
Investment scams are becoming ever more sophisticated and the amounts associated with these scams are significant. Investment scams accounted for $177 million in 2021.v
In one of the most disturbing trends of the year, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) said some investment scammers were presenting impressive credentials, including their funds ‘association’ with highly regarded domestic and international financial services institutions.
Those doing their diligence on the funds were met with professional-looking prospectuses offering very high returns and claiming investor funds would be invested in triple-A-rated or government bonds, offering protection under the government’s financial claims scheme. Scammers even cleverly honed in on those most likely to be tempted by these investment products by gathering the personal and contact details of potential ‘investors’ entered into fake investment comparison websites.
While the rise in, and increasingly compelling nature of investment scams is certainly of concern, we are here to help if you have any opportunities you’d like to explore that need thorough investigation.
- Be alert, not alarmed – always consider the fact that the ‘opportunity’ you are being presented with or the fine or fee you are being asked to pay may be a scam. Don’t be swayed by the fact that it looks like it is coming from a well-known company or source.
- Keep your personal details and passwords secure. Be careful how much information you share on social media and be wary of providing personal information.
- Beware of unusual payment requests. Scammers will often ask for unusual methods of payment that are untraceable like iTunes cards, store gift cards or debit cards, or even cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
The best way to avoid scams is to be aware of the tactics being employed and maintain a sceptical frame of mind. If something seems too good to be true, or if your alarm bells are ringing, take your time and do your due diligence before taking any action.