Online, phone scams net criminals $45m from Australians

Inheritance, Nigerian scams in the top five reports ACCC

Email, Internet and phone-based scams have cost Australians $45 million so far in 2015 according to a half year report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The top five scams by losses were dating and romance scams ($10 million), investment schemes ($9.1 million), inheritance scams ($3.5 million) Nigerian scams ($2.3 million) and betting schemes ($1.3 million).

Forty five per cent of scams were conducted by phone while 33.1 per cent of scams involved email. A further 8 per cent of scams involved some other form of Internet usage.

A total of 45,743 scams were reported to the ACCC between January and June this year.

In 2014, a total of 91,637 complaints were made to the ACCC with $81.8 million reported lost.

Last year, online dating scams remained the number one scam for financial losses with almost $28 million reported lost - despite making up only three per cent of all scam reports.

The next highest reported losses were investment fraud and computer prediction software scams, both of which are often dressed up as legitimate investment opportunities. These two scams accounted for 26 per cent of reported losses and over $21 million dollars lost.

"Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it," said ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard.

She provided some tips for people to avoid getting caught by scammers.

“Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails – delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you,” said Rickard.

She also advised people to keep their passwords and pin numbers in a safe place.

“Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.”

People were also urged to protect their Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public computers to access online banking or provide personal information.

“Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence,” Rickard added.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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