Scammers fleece Aussies $85m in one year

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Scammers fleece Aussies $85m in one year

Australians have lost more than $85 million in the last year to scams, with reported instances jumping more than double over the period.

According to the ACCC's annual Targeting Scams report, released today, the consumer watchdog received more than 83,000 reports of scamming activity last year, double the number in 2010 and four times that of 2009.  

Losses from scams reported to the ACCC rose 35 percent last year from $63 million in 2010. The average financial loss to victims was between $100 and $499 compared to between $1000 and $9999 in the previous corresponding period, which the ACCC says indicates an increase in high-volume scams.

Consumers and small businesses in the 25 to 54 age range were the most targeted.

The ACCC highlighted a shift in scam delivery methods shift from online to telephone initiatives. In 2011 telephone-based scams accounted for $28 million of lost funds from over 43,000 victims; 52 percent of all reported scams, compared to 33 percent in 2010.

ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Shaper said scammers are using voice-over IP technology in growing numbers. He warned users to be wary of callers requesting personal information via phone and email.

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Despite the growing instances of reported scams, the ACCC said almost 88 percent of targeted Australians reported no financial loss.

"That means around nine out of 10 people realised the risk and slammed the scam – they hung up the phone, shut the door, threw out the letter or clicked delete,” Shaper said.

The ACCC said in the report difficulties lay in scammer prosecution due to jurisdiction issues and increasingly sophisticated technology. It continues to work with external parties including governments to confirm and prosecute scam activities. 

"One such example was the ACCC’s continued work with international email service providers to develop ways to better identify scam emails and reduce the harm they cause," it said.

It highlighted two instances where penalties were imposed on two overseas companies, Yellow Publishing Limited and European City Guide SL, for misleading Australian customers. 

Perpetrators of scams carried out over the past year in Australia claimed to be representatives from long-suffering scam victim Microsoft. Last year, the software giant sacked Comantra, one its top partners in India, after discovering it had profited from offering bogus security services.

The Australian Media and Communications Authority was similarly targeted by scammers masquerading as the consumer watchdog in recent months, as part of an effort to rort members of the Do Not Call Register out of $300. 

The most common types of scam reported to the ACCC included up-front fee fraud, making up a third of total reported scams; hacking, where scammers ask for remote access to a victim’s computer; lottery scams; phishing emails, and online shopping scams. 

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