Australians are being targeted by scammers at every turn, with scammers posing as puppy sellers, the Australian Tax Office and even Tinder dates, a new report has revealed.
Australians lost more than $851 million to scams last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission revealed on Monday. That figure represents a 23 per cent increase on 2019, with the average victim losing $7,677.
“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 report these scams,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Australians lost the most ($328 million) to investment scams, followed by romance scams ($131 million) and payment redirections scams ($128 million).
Victorians, who experienced several lockdowns in 2020, also lost the most to scammers. The restrictions saw scammers claim people could not see items before purchasing.
“This was a common ruse in vehicle sale and puppy scams, which both had higher reports and losses,” Rickard said.
All up Victorians lost $49 million to scams - a 115 per cent increase on 2019 losses.
The ACCC said the “lengthy” lockdowns meant those who lost work were more vulnerable to government impersonation, investment and early access to super scams.
Additionally, the ACCC said Victorians were more likely to experience loneliness, leading to an increase in puppy and romance scams.
Tinder, ATO used as cover
Reports of scammers using Tinder as a contact mode increased from 73 to 174 in 2020, with most scammers using the platform for romance scams.
However, scammers also used Tinder to encourage victims to invest in dodgy cryptocurrency platforms.
The ACCC is now calling for tougher regulations governing digital platforms’ internal dispute resolution processes.
The ACCC also received more than 96,000 reports of ATO scams, with losses totalling $2.4 million.
While this reflects a decrease in the number of reports and number of those who lost money, the 457 people who did fall for the scams fell hard.
Total losses increased 12 per cent to $5,252 per victim.
In one instance, an ATO scammer threatened victims with arrest if they did not transfer money to scammers in the form of Google Play cards.
One potential victim was saved after a shop assistant queried why she was purchasing $1,000 worth of Google Play cards.
“Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated and last year used the COVID-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walks of life during this crisis,” Rickard said.
If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a scam, you can report scams on the Scamwatch website at scamwatch.gov.au.