Australians lost over $851 million to scams in 2020, a record amount, asscammers took advantage of the pandemic to con unsuspecting people, accordingto the ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report released today.

The report compiles data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, other governmentagencies and 10 banks and financial intermediaries, and is based on more than444,000 reports.

Investment scams accounted for the biggest losses, with $328 million, and madeup more than a third of total losses. Romance scams were the next biggestcategory, costing Australians $131 million, while payment redirection scamsresulted in $128 million of losses.

“Last year, scam victims reported the biggest losses we have seen, but worse,we expect the real losses will be even higher, as many people don’t reportthese scams,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated and last yearused the COVID-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walksof life during this crisis.”

Of the $851 million in combined losses, $176 million were reported toScamwatch alone. (All losses described below are from Scamwatch data only).

“Victoria, which was significantly impacted by the second wave of the virus,recorded the highest losses nationwide for the first time and Victoriansreported $49 million in losses to Scamwatch, more than double those in 2019.”Ms Rickard said.

“We saw scammers claiming the government restrictions meant people could notsee items in person before purchase. This was a common ruse in vehicle saleand puppy scams , which both had higher reports and losses.”

As people spent more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown,reports and losses for some scams also increased.

Health and medical scams increased more than 20 fold compared to 2019,accounting for over $3.9 million in losses. Losses to threat based scamsincreased by 178 per cent to $11.8 million, and there were more than $8.4million in losses to remote access scams, an increase of over 74 per cent.

Phishing activity also thrived during the pandemic, especially throughgovernment impersonation scams. There were over 44,000 reports of phishingscams, representing a 75 per cent increase.

People who detect a scam, whether or not they have lost money to it, canreport scams and learn more about how to get help on the Scamwatch website

They can also follow @scamwatch_gov

on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts to keep up to date withadvice for avoiding the latest scams affecting the community.


The 2020 Targeting Scams report includes data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber,other government agencies, and 10 banks and financial intermediaries.
Highest scam losses reported to banks and government.

Highest scam losses reported to banks and government

Scam type | Scamwatch | ReportCyber | Bank losses | ASIC | Total[1]
Investment scams | $65,820,313 | $6,806,439
| $89,339,207 | $185,394,786[2] |$328,091,449
Dating and romance scams | $38,916,120 | $27,871,737 | $92,486,588 | N/A |$131,976,234
Payment redirection scams | $14,115,692 | $75,704,868 | $73,901,297 | N/A |$128,415,400
Shopping scams | $12,914,146 | $55,239,943 | $10,523,027 | N/A | $62,147,260


[1] These totals have been adjusted to take into account of duplications wherethe same loss has been reported to multiple agencies.

[2] Whilst ASIC do not have reported losses listed in any other categories inTable 2.2, they also received reports of losses of $857,195 to fakecredit/loans, $289,750 to money transfer schemes and $149,245 to fakedebt/invoice scams.

[*] The investment scam figure provided for ReportCyber in table 2.2. is onlyfor a period of 2 weeks in December 2020. Prior to this period, ReportCyberdid not have an investment scam category for the purpose of reporting.Therefore, we expect that the actual losses to investment scams are likely tobe considerably higher than those set out in the table above.

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