2014 saw Australians lose over $80 million to a variety of scams, according to a new report released by independent Commonwealth statutory authority the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The Targeting Scams Report has revealed that 91,637 took to the ACCC with complaints of scams, resulting in an accumulated loss of $81,832,793.
The number one type of scam was found to be those relating to online dating, with almost $28 million in losses reported last year alone. The huge loss comes despite online dating scams amounting to just 3 per cent of all reported scams.
Investment fraud and computer prediction software scams were also high on the list, accounting for 26 per cent of all reports and resulting in a loss of over $21 million.
“This Fraud Week, the ACCC is urging consumers to ‘Get smarter with their data’ as stolen personal information underpins almost every scam reported. Scammers are stealing not only your money but also your data, which they then use to commit identity theft or to sell to other scammers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Your personal data is a valued commodity – and one that you cannot put too high a price on when it comes to protecting it. Unfortunately, scammers also recognise the value of your personal information and will go to great lengths to steal it.”
Ms Rickard said that more scammers are using information easily obtainable from social media profiles to help them target victims.
“Scammers are constantly ‘phishing’ for your personal details such as your name, address and birthdate and this will only increase to as your personal data becomes more valuable to them.”
The ACCC’s SCAMwatch arm has the following tips to help avoid being scammed:
1. Keep your personal details secure: Lock your mailbox, and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing out. Be careful sharing information about yourself online, including social media, blogs and other online forums.
2. Think twice about what you say and do in an online environment: Stop and think before filling in surveys, entering competitions, clicking on links or attachments, or even ‘befriending’, ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ something.
3. Keep your mobile devices and computers secure: Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
4. Choose your passwords carefully: A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
5. Beware of any request for your details or money: Use the phone book or an online search to check the organisation’s contact details. NEVER use the contact details provided in the original request.
6. Get a copy of your credit report: You can get a free copy of your report every year to check that no-one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts. Find out how to get your free credit report on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.