According to the ACCC’s ninth annual Targeting Scams Report released on 21st May 2018, more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state based government agencies 2017.

Total losses reported were $340 million – a $40 million increase compared to 2016.

Investment scams topped the losses at $64 million whilst dating and romance scams caused losses of $42 million.

Victims, on average, lost $6500. However, in some cases people have lost over $1 million.

Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot. Scammers use modern technology like social media to contact and deceive their victims. In recent years reports indicate scammers are using aggressive techniques both over the phone and on line.

Scamwatch received over 33000 reports of these threat based impersonation scams in 2017. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.

These scams can be very frightening. For example, scammers will impersonate the ATO and threaten people with an immediate arrest unless they pay an outstanding tax bill. They also pretend to be from Telstra to try and hack into your computer or from Centrelink promising extra payments in return for a “fee”.

If you receive one of these calls or emails, don’t panic. The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest; Telstra will never need access to your computer to “fix” a problem and Centrelink will never require a fee to pay money it owes you. Finally, none of these (or to the point any organisation) will ever ask you to pay using iTunes gift cards.

Businesses aren’t exempt either – scammers swindled nearly $4.7 million from Australian businesses in 2017 according to the report – a 23 per cent increase compared to 2016.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch service received 5432 reports from businesses about scams in 2017. Businesses that fell victim to scammers lost an average of nearly $11,000.

“Scammers don’t discriminate and businesses have what scammers want: money. They’ll use a variety of cons to swindle busy workers and it can be very devastating to a business’s bottom line,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

Small businesses with fewer than 20 staff were most likely to be targeted by scammers and accounted for more than 50 per cent of reports to the ACCC. Businesses were most likely to be targeted with false billing scams (1323 reports), while employment and investment scams caused the most losses at nearly $1.7 million.

There has been a dramatic jump in losses reported to the ACCC about these two scams. False billing scams are where a scammer tries to trick a business into paying fake invoices for directory listings, advertising, domain name renewals or office supplies. The scammers are very aggressive and persistent in demanding payment.

With employment and investment scams, scammers offer services commonly used by businesses such as web page development, search engine optimisation, small business loans and business directory listings. The business signs up to what seems like a good deal but quickly discover they receive no service and that the offer was not legitimate.

Businesses need to be acutely aware that scammers are actively out there targeting them and to ensure they have strong processes in place to avoid becoming victims.

Australian businesses are encouraged to visit https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/ to learn more about scams targeting them. They can follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.

They can also sign up to the ACCC’s  Small Business Information Network to receive emails about new or updated resources, enforcement action, changes to Australia’s competition and consumer laws, events, surveys and scams relevant to the small business sector.

Acknowledgement: Information compiled from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) website.