Australians are being urged to learn how to spot a scam this national Scams Awareness Week (7-11 November) after combined losses of over $2 billion reported last year to Scamwatch, the government and the financial sector. This year combined losses might reach $4 billion as losses reported to Scamwatch are already significantly higher than 2021.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch received more than 166,000 reports between January and September this year, showing a 90 per cent increase in losses to $424.8 million over the same period last year. These numbers vastly understate real losses as only about 13 per cent of victims report to Scamwatch.
This year’s Scams Awareness Week, hosted by the ACCC and the Scams Awareness Network, aims to empower people to be alert to the risk of being scammed and consciously look for red flags. Over 350 private sector, not for profit and government organisations are partnering with Scamwatch for the week.
“With millions of Australians more vulnerable to scams following the recent spate of large-scale data breaches, there has never been a more important time to know the tell-tale signs of a scammer,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“We know scammers are relentlessly targeting Australians. Research commissioned by the ACCC shows that 96 per cent of the population was exposed to a scam in the five years to 2021. Half of the survey’s respondents were contacted weekly or daily by scammers, a figure expected to rise given current cyber security concerns.”
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As part of the national scam prevention campaign, the ACCC is rolling out a series of short educational videos, featuring simple and practical tips to help people identify and protect themselves from scams. These are being shared on social media and available to view on YouTube and the Scams Awareness Week web page.
“Scammers evolve quickly, and their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated and unscrupulous. There have been hundreds of reports to Scamwatch in the weeks after the recent high profile data breaches and that is expected to continue,” Ms Rickard said.
“Cyber criminals have capitalised on the data breach by impersonating government departments and businesses to carry out identity theft and remote access scams.”
“While there is a great deal of work underway to disrupt scammers, our best defence against these types of scams is education. We want Australians to know what to look for, so they don’t get caught out,” Ms Rickard said.
This Scams Awareness Week campaign encourages people to learn about and watch out for common scam clues. It will also raise awareness about where scam victims can go for help.
“In addition to costing consumers, businesses and the economy billions a year, scams are emotionally devastating for victims and their families. It’s important that people reach out for help if they need it. There are a number of crisis support services available.”
If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
Top tips for avoiding scams
Take your time before giving money or personal information to anyone.
Scammers will offer to help you or ask you to verify who you are. They will pretend to be from organisations you know and trust like a business you deal with, police, government or fraud service.
Ask yourself could the message or call be fake?
Never click a link in a message and ask a trusted friend or family member what they would do. Only contact businesses or government using contact information from their official website or through their secure apps. If you’re not sure say no, hang up or delete.
Act quickly if something feels wrong.
Contact your bank immediately if you lose money or personal information or if you notice some unusual activity on you cards or accounts. Seek help from organisations like IDCARE and report online crime to ReportCyber. Help others by reporting scams to Scamwatch.
How to protect yourself today:
Make your accounts as safe as your home. Set up extra steps on your accounts to stop people getting in.
Add more steps to show who you are when you log into your online services and apps. This is called Multi Factor Authentication.
This could be a code sent to your phone, a token or secret question. Your face or fingerprint or voice can also be the key to let you into your accounts.
Ask your banks and service providers how to add more checks so no one can pretend to be you. And don’t forget to tell them if you have been in a data breach.