Australians fleeced out of $93 million in 2012: report

Advance fee scams and computer hacking were the most commonly reported to the ACCC

Scammers continue to take Australians for a ride with losses of $93.4 million reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last year.

The consumer watchdog’s <i>Targeting Scams</i> report found that scam losses had increased nine per cent from 2011. However, the ACCC pointed out that actual losses are likely to be much higher as many scams go unreported.

For the fourth year in a row, advance fee/up-front payment scams were the most commonly reported, making up 32 per cent of recorded scams. Computer hacking made up 13 per cent of scams with the ACCC noting that the Microsoft Event Viewer computer virus scam continued to target Australians. The public was also subjected to a scareware campaign where cyber criminals pretended to be from the AFP.

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Online shopping scams increased by 65 per cent with reported losses totalling more than $4 million.

However, 88 per cent of Australians who reported financial losses to the ACCC indicated that it was between $100 and $500.

“This indicates the continued use of high volume scams which are delivered to large numbers of recipients but cause smaller amounts of loss per victim,” read the report.

Banking, employment, dating and romance related cons were also recorded by the ACCC.

Scams delivered via landline and mobile networks remained the preferred delivery method for scammers, with combined voice and text messages making up 56 per cent of reported scams.

According to the ACCC, unsolicited telephone calls accounted for $24 million in reported losses while fake SMS messages netted criminals $759,986. Online scams increased to represent over 35 per cent of all approaches.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the report was launched to coincide with National Consumer Fraud Week 2013, the theme of which is 'Outsmart the scammers'. This campaign aims to provide Australians with tips on how to shop safely online such as identity protection and only paying via secure payment methods.

“Scammers continue to find sophisticated methods to deliver scams, taking advantage of new technologies and communication methods to try and slip under your radar,” she said in a statement.

“Nowadays it can take just the click of a button to fall victim to a scam, so it is more important than ever that we practice safe techniques when communicating with other-whether online, on the phone, at one’s business or even at home.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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