Australians lost a record $176 million from 216 thousand scams in 2020

Edward G. | February 2, 2021

Scam damages in Australia have been steadily growing in the last 4 years. However, last year’s losses surged by more than two times. The reason being, millions of people shifted towards remote work and, in turn, created many new attack vectors for cybercriminals.

According to data presented by the Atlas VPN research team, Australians have lost over $176 (AUD) million to scams in 2020. In total, Aussies reported more than 216 thousand fraud cases, with 10.7% of the reports including financial losses.

The analysis is based on the information provided by Scamwatch, the initiative run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The year 2020 was a record year in terms of monetary losses and the number of scams in Australia. Aussies lost $97.08 million more in 2020 compared to 2019, representing a 123% increase.

Australia's citizens aged 65 and over lost most to scams, at $37.65 million, constituting over 21% of the total losses in 2020. Next up are 45 to 54-year-olds, who sustained $32.3 million in monetary damages last year. Third place goes to citizens ages 55 to 64, and they lost a total of $28.38 million to fraudsters.

On a similar note, nearly half of the scams reported (103 thousand) were carried out via phone. It might seem unusual to some, but the fact becomes more evident when we realize that hackers mostly target people ages 45+. In short, it is clear that older generations are more gullible to scams.

Investment scams cause most damages

Fraudsters use various scam methods to trick people into giving away their hard-earned money. Last year, investment scams swindled most money out of unsuspecting victims, at more than $66.44 million.

Scammers took the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to lure victims into investment scams. There are various types of investment fraud. The most common examples are Ponzi schemes, fake CD scams, bogus stock promotions, and community-based financial scams.

Consumers should be extremely cautious of companies that claim that their products can help stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, a red flag should go up if the offer involves microcap stocks. These claims are often untrue and are simply a scheme to lure out money from investors. Worst case scenario, you may not be able to sell your shares if the company is terminated because of false claims.

The second place goes to dating and romance scams. In 2020, these scams resulted in $37.22 million in losses. Once again, fraudsters use the pandemic as an excuse to ask for money from people they are dating online.

The fraudster will often ask for a significant amount of money that will supposedly help him get home because he is stuck in a foreign country without access to his funds. The scammer promises that when he comes back, he will send back all of the borrowed money. We all know how that one ends.

In third place, we see false billing scams, a method that successfully tricked victims into emptying their pockets of over $18.03 million. Here, cybercriminals send out a request in which the victim is supposed to pay a fake invoice for things like domain name renewals, advertising campaigns, office supplies, etc.

Scammers bet on the fact that the person who receives the invoice is not aware that these duties have not been requested. Moreover, many such emails contain malicious attachments. Be wary of that as well, and never open any suspicious attachments.

Looking at scam reports by gender, males and females submit almost exactly the same number of reports, at 50% vs. 49.8%, respectively. Here, 0.02% goes to gender x, which means that the person either did not specify his gender or identifies as neither male nor female.

Scammers went on a rampage in 2020

In general, the year 2020 was a rollercoaster ride. However, cybercriminals used this commotion as an opportunity to find new ways to scam panicking citizens.

While many fraud reports are not directly related to the pandemic, some are directly linked to the virus. For example, fraudsters might be selling COVID-19 vaccines, masks, sanitizers, and other products. Sadly, as it happens in many cases, customers do not receive the products.

Since the start of the pandemic, Australians have lost $6.28 million to such scams. Most common fraud reports include phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams.

The analysis is based on the information provided by Scamwatch, the initiative run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

John C.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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