Australians lost more than $158 million between January and May this year to investment scams, an increase of 314 per cent compared to last year.
Altogether, Australians lost more than $205 million to scams in the four months between January 1 and May 1, but investment scams have proven to be the worst, according to ScamWatch.
“We are seeing more money lost to investment scams and so are urging all Australians not to trust investment opportunities that seem too good to be true,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
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The majority of losses to investment scams involved cryptocurrency investments, with $113 million of losses reported this year.
Cryptocurrency is also the most common payment method for investment scams, ScamWatch reported.
“Australians should be very wary of anyone asking them to invest in or transfer money using cryptocurrency, especially if it’s someone you have only met online,” Rickard said.
“Many consumers are unfamiliar with the complexities of cryptocurrency and this can make them more vulnerable to scams.”
Scamwatch has also seen an increase in imposter bond scams this year, with $10.9 million reported lost.
Imposter bond scams usually impersonate real financial companies or banks and claim to offer government or Treasury bonds or fixed-term deposits.
Scamwatch data found scam contact methods were changing, with text message up 54 per cent between January 1 and May 1 this year, surpassing phone calls as the most common contact mode.
“If you receive an unexpected text message or phone call from someone offering you an opportunity to invest, it is likely a scam and you should immediately hang up or delete the message,” Rickard said.
Phone scams have almost halved, suggesting the telecommunications industry’s Reducing Scams Call Code 2020 - which blocks incoming calls from scammers - is having an impact.
Since the introduction, telco providers have blocked more than 549 million scam calls, limiting opportunities for criminals to scam Australians.
New rules to block scam text messages will also be introduced this year.