Australians reported 167,797 scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)-controlled Scamwatch in 2019.
A 34% increase over the year prior, the financial impact in 2019 to Australians was just over AU$634 million. This was an average loss of AU$7,224. The Scamwatch Targeting scams 2019: A review of scam activity since 2009 report [PDF] showed only 11.8% of scam reports included a financial loss.
The greatest losses in 2019 by type of scam were: AU$132 million to business email compromise (BEC) scams, AU$126 million to investment scams, and AU$83 million lost to dating and romance scams.
See also: Cybersecurity warning: These scammers are looking for a way into your email accounts
In 2019, phishing was the most common method for scamming, with 25,168 reports. 513 of those reported resulted in a financial loss, valued at AU$1.5 million.
Identity theft came in third with 11,373 reports, and 562 of those resulted in a loss totalling just over AU$4.3 million. There were 9,019 remote access scams, with 682 of those costing Australians AU$4.8 million; and “hacking” as a scam type was reported 8,321 times, with 509 of those resulting in a loss of AU$5.1 million.
In 2019, reported losses for cryptocurrency scams exceeded AU$21.6 million from 1,810 reports.
“Cloud mining farms became a common adaptation of this type of scam. Most were Ponzi schemes, with no real cryptocurrency involved,” the report explained.
Scamwatch said that an international Ponzi cryptocurrency scam — USI Tech — hit Australia last year. It received over 200 reports about USI Tech, with losses of AU$3.3 million, mostly via Bitcoin.
The top two payment methods for scams in 2019 were bank transfers at AU$70 million and Bitcoin at AU$19 million.
The highest overall loss was experienced by those aged 55-64, and the age bracket reporting the most scams were aged 65 and above, followed by those aged 25-34. 18-24-year-olds comprised only 4% of the total losses. People aged 55 to 64 lost nearly AU$30 million.
Men were most fooled by investment scams, and women by dating and romance scams.
Phone remains the main avenue for scamming, with 69,522 reports; followed by email with 40,277 reports; text message with 27,894 reports; and “the internet” was the scam method for 11,776 reports.
AU$32.6 million was lost via phone, and despite only being responsible for 7% of overall scams, “the internet” saw victims lose AU$31.6 million.
See also: Australian government introduces new telco regulations to fight phone scams
“Unfortunately financial losses to scams are grossly understated,” ACCC chair Delia Rickard said.
“Scammers have moved to unexpected platforms to target victims. For example, in 2019 we saw dating and romance scammers targeting unsuspecting victims through gaming apps such…