Australians lost over $205 million to scams between 1 January and 1 May, a 166 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, according to new data from Scamwatch.
The true losses to scams are likely to be much higher, as our research shows that only around 13 per cent of people report their losses to Scamwatch.
The majority of losses over this period have been to investment scams with $158 million lost, an increase of 314 per cent compared to the same period last year.
While the reported losses have increased the number of reports has reduced slightly, indicating that on average people reported higher individual losses.
“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.
The majority of losses to investment scams involved crypto investments, with $113 million reported lost this year. Cryptocurrency is also the most common payment method for investment scams.
“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. Many consumers are unfamiliar with the complexities of cryptocurrency and this can make them more vulnerable to scams,” Ms Rickard said.
Scamwatch has also seen an increase in imposter bond scams this year, with $10.9m reported lost.
Imposter bond scams usually impersonate real financial companies or banks and claim to offer government/Treasury bonds or fixed term deposits.
Scamwatch data also shows scam contact methods are changing with text message up 54 per cent between 1 January and 1 May this year, surpassing phone call 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,” Ms Rickard said.
Phone scams have almost halved, suggesting the telecommunications industry’s Reducing Scams Call Code 2020 that blocks incoming calls from scammers is having an impact.
Since the code’s introduction telco providers have blocked over 549 million scam calls, limiting opportunities for criminals to scam Australians.
New rules to block scam text messages will also be introduced this year.
People aged 55 to 64 reported the highest total losses, $32 million between 1 January and 1 May and over 80 per cent of losses reported by this age group was lost to investment scams ($26m).
The ACCC is currently taking action over alleged misleading conduct by Facebook parent company Meta for publishing scam celebrity crypto ads on Facebook.
The ACCC also refers investment scams to ASIC and in some cases the AFP, for investigation.