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Scammers Fleece Australians’ Of Record $659 Million

Australians parted with more than $659 million in scams in 2020, as scammers took advantage of the pandemic to fleece people.

CANBERRA, Australia — Scammers took advantage of the pandemic to fleece Australians of a record AU$851 million ($659 million) in 2020.

Investment scams accounted for about a third of total losses, with unsuspecting investors scammed AU$328 million ($254 million).

Romance scams cost Australians another AU$131 million ($101 million) and payment redirection scams AU$128 million ($99 million).

“Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated, and last year used the Covid-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walks of life during this crisis,” Australian Competition & Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

Rickard said that because many people did not tell the watchdog when they had fallen victim to a scammer, the real losses were probably even higher. Delia Rickard was appointed to the position of Deputy Chair of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in June 2012 for a period of five years.

As people tried to ride out the state’s repeated lockdowns with a new pet, or if they needed a second-hand car, scammers were there to take advantage. (Pickawood/Unsplash)

Victims lost an average of AU$7677 ($5949) when they fell victim to a scammer, and people aged over 65 were the most likely to lose their money.

The boom in online transactions during lockdown also saw a rise in health and medical scams, which were 20 times higher than in 2019, accounting for AU$3.9 million ($3.02 million) in losses.

For the first time, Victoria recorded the highest losses nationwide, with AU$49 million ($37 million) in losses, more than double the amount lost in 2019.

As people tried to ride out the state’s repeated lockdowns with a new pet, or if they needed a second-hand car, scammers were there to take advantage.

“We saw scammers claiming the government restrictions meant people could not see items in person before purchase,” Rickard said.

Of course, despite the money paid, they never arrived.

Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognize, avoid and report scams. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image)

Scams based on threats also increased by 178 percent, to AU$11.8 million ($9.14 million) in losses. Phishing activity, especially where scammers impersonated government departments, increased by 75 percent, with 44,000 reports.

The consumer watchdog released its Targeting Scams report, which is based on more than 444,000 scam reports, on June 7.

Anyone who detects a scam, even if they are not a victim, can report it to Scamwatch.

Scamwatch is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognize, avoid and report scams.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is an independent Commonwealth statutory authority whose role is to enforce the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation, promoting competition, fair trading, and regulating national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra)