The ACCC's latest Targeting Scams report compiled data from 560,000 reports from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, major banks and money remitters and other government agencies.

Despite the reported losses to all organisations totaling almost $1.8 billion, the ACCC estimates the actual losses in 2021 to be well over $2 billion given one-third of victims do not report scams. 

What types of scams are there?

The highest loss category in 2021 was Investment scams ($701 million), followed by payment redirection scams ($227 million), and romance scams ($142 million).

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard believes scammers are the most opportunistic of all criminals.

"They pose as charities after a natural disaster, health departments during a pandemic, and love interests every day," Ms Rickard said. 

"The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families and businesses."

Who is being targeted?

Women reported the most scams but men lost more money than women, and men's losses to investments scams were also found to be double women's losses.

However, in culturally and linguistically diverse communities is was women that had slightly higher losses than men. 

The highest losses reported were people aged 65 and over, and reported losses steadily increased with age. 

In 2021, Scamwatch received record levels of reports and losses from Australians that may have been experiencing vulnerability or hardship.

People with a disability reported twice as many incidents compared to 2020, and their financial losses increased by 102% to $19.6 million. 

Reports made by Indigenous Australians increased by 43% between 2020 and 2021, and reported losses increased by 142%.

The Consumer Action Law Centre is calling for the Albanese Government to introduce mandatory rules for banks to better detect and prevent scams, similar to those in the United Kingdom.

CEO of Consumer Action Gerard Brody agrees that banks need to do more to protect their customers from scams.

"Most Australians trust banking platforms and payment systems and consider them safe. But $129 million in losses were reported to Scamwatch as paid via bank transfer last year," Mr Brody said.

"British banks are showing leadership with effective ways that are stopping many scams in their tracks. Our banks—particularly the big four—can and must do more."

One recommendation made in the report is that the adoption of ‘Confirmation of Payee’, a technology that checks the names of intended bank transfer recipients before transfers are made, and prompts transferors if they don't match. 

Commonwealth Bank is taking its own measures by utlising new artificial intelligence (AI) in a bid to prevent more Australians falling victim to scams.

This AI technology detects suspicious and unusual behavior on its digital banking platforms, triggering a potential scam alert to the customer. 

The bank is also reminding customers that they will never be asked for their PIN, password or Netbank SMS Code via telephone or email nor to access their devices.

If a customer does receive any contact from someone claiming to be from CommBank asking for this information, they shouldn't proceed with the inquiry and instead call the bank to verify before continuing.

This comes after Westpac introduced automatic scam blocking features when online shopping.

Photo by Michael Gieger on Unsplash