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Top three current scams: phishing, identity theft and false billing

22 August 2017

Australians lost $45 million to scams in early 2017.

Phishing, identity theft, and false billing were the top three scams reported by Australians in the first six months of 2017, according to the latest statistics from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch. The three scam types accounted for 32 995 reports, representing 35% of the total reports made.

When it came to the $45 million Australians lost to scams during this period, investment scams had the highest reported financial losses of just over $15 million. Dating and romance came in second, with Australians scammed out of $11 million.

Other key findings for the period included:

  • Australians lost more money to telephone scams ($13.5 million) than online ($8.3 million), email ($7.7 million) or via social networking ($7 million).
  • Typical phone scams are threat based and involve scammers impersonating a government agency such as the Australian Taxation Office or Centrelink, and threatening the victim with fines, arrest or deportation if they don’t pay the money demanded.
  • The two age groups that lost the most money to scammers were those aged 45–54 and 55–64 years. Both groups lost close to $10 million each. Those aged over 65 years lost just under $8 million and submitted the most reports.
  • Where gender was provided, there was little difference between females and males when it came to the amount of money lost, though females made more scam reports than males (53.1% to 44.5%).
  • A total of 93 097 reports were made to the ACCC.

Top three scams explained

  • Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.
  • Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else's identity to steal money or gain other benefits.
  • False billing scams request you or your business to pay fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies that you did not order.

Protect yourself from scams

There are a number of different ways you can protect yourself from scams online.

  • Understand that scams exist and use caution online.  Be careful when online shopping and be particularly wary of any uninvited contact—whether it’s from businesses or individuals, via email, social media or other means.
  • Use strong passwords, take steps to protect your computer and use safe behaviour when using the web.
  • Avoid malicious messages—don’t share your email address online unless you need to, use a spam filter to catch bogus messages before they get to your inbox and delete spam that does get through without opening it.
  • Don’t open messages or click on links if you don’t know the sender or if you’re not expecting them. Be especially suspicious of messages that:
    • are not addressed to you directly or misspell your name
    • ask you to provide your banking details or other personal information
    • promise you money
    • present hard luck or exotic stories telling you that you can share in hidden millions of dollars.

Don’t accept friend or contact requests on social media from people you don’t know. Criminals may use information they gather about you from social media in order to make their messages more appealing or appear more authentic.

Find out more information about recovering after a scam.