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$30m in a month: Aussies get pummeled by scams

A young woman looks concerned as she holds her phone with an open laptop in front of her.
Aussies lost $30 million to scams last month - the highest amount on record (Source: Getty)

Aussies lost $29.8 million to scams in may 2021, the highest on the ACCC’s record.

The latest figure is the highest total monthly amount lost to scams on Scamwatch’s public record and is over double the $14.6 million reported in April.

It’s also 150 per cent higher than the same time last year.

Here’s how the scammers are targeting Aussies, and how we can avoid it.

Top types of scams reported in May 2021

Phishing scams yet again prevailed as the most frequently reported scam with 4,365 reports in May, up 84 per cent compared to May last year.

The total amount of money lost to phishing scams also increased by more than 500 per cent in May, amounting to more than $1.4 million.


The number of reports relating to threats to life and arrest rose by 72 per cent from April while online shopping scams also entered the top five.

In terms of the most money lost, investment scams continue to be the most financially damaging to Aussies. According to Scamwatch, Aussies lost a combined $65.8 million to investments scams in 2020, but in the first five months of 2021 that figure has already reached over $54 million.

In May, dating and romance scams followed again as the second largest source of money lost, costing Aussies $3.4 million.

Social networking was the greatest source of these scams, accounting for nearly half of all money lost.

As for other types of scams, betting and sports investment scams and pyramid scheme scams both increased significantly in May, costing Australians more than $1 million combined.

Delivery method

Scams delivered via phone calls were again the most profitable and most popular delivery method for scammers, accounting for more than half of the total scams reported in May.

Scams delivered via the internet accounted for only 5 per cent of all scams but were the second largest source of money lost, costing Aussies $6.3 million.

Text messages and email remained popular channels for scammers accounting for 20 per cent and 14 per ent of total scams reported respectively, while reports of scams via mobile applications rose by 55 pet cent compared to April.

Why is it getting worse?

Proofpoint ANZ area vice-president Crispin Kerr said the data shows that while there were more resorts of scams, the amount of money lost was also significantly higher - showing the criminals are getting better.

“This suggests scammers may be getting better at targeting Australians and reaping greater financial reward with less attempts,” Kerr said.

“The ACCC’s Targeting Scams Report released this week also paints a picture of just how financially damaging scams were in 2020 as cybercriminals preyed on individuals fears and anxieties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Kerr said the data suggests there are no signs that cybercriminals are letting up or slowing down.

“Remaining educated and aware of current scams that may be circulating as well as knowing how to spot a scam is fundamental to keeping individuals and businesses safe,” Kerr said.

“Always remember to never give out personal or financial information to an unsolicited source and if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.”

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