Australians have lost $295 million to scams in the first half of 2022, according to newly released data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch.
The total losses from January to June 2022 have more than doubled compared to the first half of 2021, where Australians lost a combined $139 million.
While losses to scams have increased exponentially since last year, the total number of scams reported to Scamwatch has decreased by 15%. During the first half of 2022, 105,153 scams were reported compared to 124,321 in the first half of 2021, suggesting scammers are becoming more effective and sophisticated when stealing personal information and siphoning money from less attempts.
Investment scams were the most financially damaging during the first half of 2022, causing more than $219 million in losses compared to $177 million lost throughout the entirety of 2021. This was followed by dating and romance scams which have cost Australians $16 million in the first half of 2022.
Phishing scams were the most reported type of scam, with nearly 32,000 reports across the first half of 2022, up from 28,500 from the same time last year. Of these phishing scams, SMS or smishing scams accounted for more than half during the period. With 8,959 reports, online shopping scams were the second most reported with these scams mostly carried out via the internet.
Other key findings:
Scams delivered via mobile applications accounted for greatest losses at $94 million.
Phone scams were the most common delivery method with 33,403 reports, followed by text message scams with 32,700 reports.
Australians aged over 65 reported the greatest losses to scams over the period, totalling $51 million.
Men accounted for 61% ($181 million) in losses, compared to 37% ($111 million) for women.
March 2022 saw the single greatest monthly loss on Scamwatch's record, with $95 million in losses reported while January saw the greatest number of reports for the year at over 21,000.
"We are just over halfway through the year and already 2022 is shaping up to be a record year for losses and scam activity," says Adrian Covich, senior director, technical sales, Asia Pacific and Japan at Proofpoint.
"Across the whole of 2021 Australians lost $323 million and only six months into 2022, this shows how active scammers are in Australia. Unfortunately, this number does not cover the true extent of the damage they are inflicting on everyday Australians," he says.
"Across the year we have seen phone scams and text message scams increase exponentially, as these methods are easy and an effective way for scammers to execute mass phishing campaigns at very little cost," says Covich.
"In light of this rise in SMS scams, it is encouraging to see the ACCC register new rules for telecommunications providers to help stop scam messages from reaching customers.
"While this is a step in the right direction, we urge Australians to continue to be vigilant about any unsolicited communications and not to solely rely on these measures to stop scams from getting through."
According to the report, scammers and cybercriminals will continue to leverage current events and social engineering tactics techniques, and procedures relying on humans fundamental tendency to open and respond to messages whether that is over email, the internet or SMS.
"During the current tax season for example, we typically see scammers ramp up their efforts, impersonating organisations like the ATO and banks as people expect to receive legitimate communications from these entities during this time," says Covich.
"Staying up to date with Scamwatch's alerts about active scams circulating can help Australians stay protected," he says.
"With the data from Scamwatch showing investment scams are continuing to cause devastating losses, we urge Australians to never give out personal or financial information to someone they don't know, whether thats over phone, email, text or the internet."
Proofpoint's tips to avoid being scammed:
- Never share personal or financial information including bank account or credit card details with someone you don't know.
- Do not click through links or open attachments from unknown senders whether thats over email, text, social media or online.
- Look out for spelling and grammatical errors, these can suggest a message is a scam.
- Only communicate with an organisation through official channels found on company websites, do not reply directly to emails or click on links provided.
- Do not share passwords with people and ensure you change passwords regularly. Consider using a password manager to help protect your personal information from being stolen.
- Be cautious about phone calls or emails that come out of the blue with investment offers or travel and other prizes.