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2022 scam losses reach $3.1B in wake of massive data breaches

2022 scam losses reach $3.1B in wake of massive data breaches

Scamwatch alone saw a 76 per cent increase in financial losses of reported scams, to $569 million.

Credit: ID 56111899 © David May |

Data breaches saw millions of Australians become more vulnerable to scams as total financial losses hit a record $3.1 billion in 2022.

This is according to the latest Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Scamwatch Targeting Scams report, which saw total financial losses reported rising by 76 per cent year-on-year, to $569 million alone. This is despite the number of scam reports dropping by 16.5 per cent to 239,237.

The breaches – being the ones that affected Optus in September and Medibank in October impacted a combined 19.5 million customers – resulted in hundreds of reports made to Scamwatch. These reports included impersonations of government departments and businesses as part of identity theft and remote access scams.

“While this brought about unprecedented collaboration across government, law enforcement and industry to share information and disrupt scams, there is still more work to be done,” ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said.

“Unfortunately, there are still significant gaps between and within the key sectors – banks, telcos and digital platforms; and between regulators that scammers exploit to steal money from customers. So we would like to see initiatives that apply across the sectors, knowing that scammers will target the weakest link.”

The report, which combines data from a range of government agencies, said remote access scams were the second-highest loss category overall during the past year, with $229 million reportedly lost to them. Meanwhile, investment scams were the highest, at $1.5 billion, while payment redirection scams came in third place, at $224 million.

Lowe also warned that scammers are picking up on new technologies, integrating them within their attempts to trick people.

“Scammers evolve quickly and unfortunately, many Australians are losing their life savings,” she said.

“We have seen alarming new tactics emerge which make scams incredibly difficult to detect. This includes everything from impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organisations to scam texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages. This means now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam.

“There has been an explosion of reported losses to phishing scams in the past year, such as ‘Hi Mum’ and Toll/Linkt text scams, which skyrocketed by 469 per cent to $24.6 million in 2022.”

Lowe added that the ACCC is continuing its efforts to fight back against scams with a three-pronged approach.

“First, we need to stop scammers reaching consumers by disrupting phone calls, SMS, email, social media messaging or other ways in which scammers contact would-be victims,” she said.

“Second, we need to make sure consumers are supported with up-to-date information so they have the best chance of spotting a scammer when contacted.

“Finally, we need effective measures in place to prevent funds being transferred to scammers.”

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Tags acccAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionSCAMwatch

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