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Watch out: Aussies to lose record amount to scammers this year

Scammers targeting Australians are set to reach a scary new milestone. Images: Getty

Australians are expected to lose more than $532 million to scammers by the end of the year, with the consumer watchdog reminding Australians to stay vigilant.

If scammers’ activity does continue as expected, this will be the first time the cons’ paydays exceed half a billion dollars, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.

And, added ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard, Aussies’ who think they are too smart to fall for scams could find this is actually what trips them up.

“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” Rickard said.

“People need to update their idea of what a scam is so that we are less vulnerable. 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.”

What scams are the most dangerous?

Investment scams are particularly nasty, Rickard said, as they can be sophisticated and convincing, leading to financial loss in nearly half of all instances.

Facebook lottery scams, the ‘Loom’ pyramid scheme scam and cryptocurrency scams are also common.

Cryptocurrency investment scams have alone cost Australians $14.76 million between January and July this year.

“Our advice is to be wary of ads you see on the internet. Don’t be persuaded by celebrity endorsements or ‘not to be missed’ opportunities. You never know for certain who you’re dealing with or whether they’re credible,” Rickard said.

“If you think you’re speaking to a friend on social media, call them, or find another way to contact them before acting on any advice that might result in you giving away your personal details or money.”

Who’s most at risk of scams?

According to the ACCC, Australians over the age of 65 are the most likely to fall for scams, having made nearly 16,000 reports this year alone.

And, research from credit card comparison service comparethemarket.com.au found that around one in four (27 per cent) Australian retirees have lost more than $1,000 to credit card fraud.

“Sadly, 40 per cent of reports (34,682) lodged with Scamwatch for 2019 involved losing personal banking information. There were over 3,452 reports involving fraud on credit cards made in the first half of this year, with almost half (47 per cent) citing online shopping scams,” an ACCC spokesperson said.

The research, released today, found that Baby Boomers, aged 55-64 were the next most-likely group to lose money to credit card scams, with 22 per cent having reported losing more than $1,000 to fraudsters.

Comparethemarket.com.au money expert, Rod Attrill said older Australians are vulnerable as they’re generally less tech-savvy than their younger counterparts.

“Those heading into the later years of their life are having to keep up with the fast-paced nature of a cashless society which can prove both difficult and costly. Especially for scammers online, this particular demographic are also perceived as having more accumulated wealth which makes them an attractive target when grabbing card details,” Attrill said.

“This is why it’s vital for any consumer, old and young alike, to be extra vigilant anytime they use their credit card for online purchases or even when withdrawing money at an ATM.”

He said phishing was one of the most common methods for online scammers, with victims tricked into giving out details like credit card numbers either on the phone or online.

“Identity theft is another common scam that is particularly prevalent for those wanting to regularly use card details. If you suspect your financial details were stolen, you should alert your bank immediately for a better chance at recovering your money,” Attrill said.

12-16 August marks the ACCC’s National Scams Awareness Week. More information on scams and how to protect yourself here.

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