AUSTRALIANS are predicted to lose a record $532 million to scammers this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The ACCC is urging consumers to watch out for scams as part of National Scams Awareness Week.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says most people are confident they will never fall victim to a scam, but she warns the perpetrators are very convincing.
“Scammers are professional businesses dedicated to ripping us off. They have call centres with convincing scripts, staff training programs, and corporate performance indicators their ’employees’ need to meet,” Ms Rickard said on Monday.
Investment scams are expected to account for the highest proportion of losses this year – almost $37 million – with cryptocurrency scams fleecing $14.76 million from Australian consumers this year already.
According to the ACCC’s ScamWatch, men are more likely to be conned than women, accounting for 57.5 per cent of victims, particularly men aged 55-64, who’ve lost $4 million more than any other group.
Fraudsters have also targeted dating sites with romance scams taking more than $13 million so far this year.
But Damien Manuel from Deakin University’s Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation says the official numbers “hugely” underestimate total losses.
Often people were too ashamed to tell anyone they had been scammed, let alone report it, while some people were unaware they were being scammed.
“They have money coming out of their account over a slower period of time, so it’s not a large sum,” he said.
The record-breaking losses also represent the increased activity of scammers in the Australian market, he says.
“When you look at the first five months of this year, it looked like a 60 per cent increase in number of reported financial losses,” Mr Manuel said.
Ms Rickard urged people to be vigilant on social media, while shopping online and answering the phone.
“Always ask yourself, ‘could this be a scam?’ if you’re ever in doubt, decline the contact or hang up the phone – it’s often the safest option,” she said.