The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received around 42,000 scam-related reports in 2010 compared to around 20,000 in 2009, according to a report released today to mark the start of Fraud Week 2011.
ACCC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said the report – Targeting Scams, the ACCC’s annual report on consumer fraud – revealed that scam activity remains a threat to Australian consumers and businesses.
“The ACCC’s work shows that consumer scams have become a serious form of economic crime, especially in the online arena,” Mr Kell said.
However, the ACCC Report also notes that more Australians are prepared to report scams, even if they haven’t lost money.
Around 16 per cent of consumers and small businesses who reported scams to the ACCC suffered monetary losses, ranging from a few dollars to several million. While scam reports to the ACCC increased, the amount reported lost in 2010 was $63 million, down slightly from 2009.
”Nonetheless, we recognise that the losses reported to the ACCC represent only a part of the overall cost to the Australian community, as many scams go unreported and indirect losses are also significant,” Mr Kell said.
Online scams remained the largest method of delivery and grew from 14,000 in 2009 to over 19,000 in 2010.
A notable trend was the increase in scams initiated by telephone, which grew from around 2,000 in 2009 to more than 14,000 reports in 2010.
“It appeared that many of these calls may have originated offshore and it’s likely that they are taking advantage of cheap or free voice over internet services,” said Mr Kell.
2010 also saw an increase in scams impersonating government departments or major businesses Mr Kell explained.
“Some of these scams are quite sophisticated, with the use of logos and language that look and sound genuine.”
This year’s focus for National Consumer Fraud Week is on the impact of scams on individual victims, highlighted by the theme Scams: It’s Personal.
“While the overall financial cost of scams is high, we should not overlook the personal toll experienced by individuals who fall victim to these crimes,” Mr Kell said.
Individuals who have been scammed can suffer damage to relationships with family and friends, loss of self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others and in forming future relationships.
“The often debilitating personal effect of scams is why the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is committed to educating Australians about the dangers of scams and equipping them with the tools to identify them,” Mr Kell said.
The Taskforce was formed in March 2005 and comprises 22 government regulatory agencies and departments with responsibility for consumer protection regarding frauds and scams.
The ACCC has a range of resources to assist people to spot scams before they fall for them and advice on how to keep your personal details safe. These include:
- A Twitter account to alert the community to current scam activity
Follow scamwatch on twitter at http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov or @SCAMwatch_gov
- A SCAMwatch website dedicated to information on scams in Australia