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Australians were cheated out of a staggering $176.1m by scammers in 2020


Australians lost a combined total of $176.1 million to scammers in 2020 – a massive 23.1 per cent increase over the $142.9 million we were cheated out of in 2019.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest Scamwatch report not only did scammers reap more money but the number of scams in 2020 rose to 216,089 which is 28 per cent higher than the 167,795 scams that were reported in 2019.

2020 presented scammers with extraordinary opportunities thanks to the COVID pandemic and the fears and uncertainties that came with it.

More money was lost in December 2020 than any other month last year with a combined loss of $22.4 million – up 19.7 per cent from the $18.7 million lost in November.

Phishing was the most common type of scam – up 75 per cent from the number of cases reported in 2019.

And phone calls and emails were the most popular delivery methods.

Australians reported $48.08 million lost to phone scams – up from $32.57 million in 2019.

There were 103,153 phone scam attacks in 2020 – a leap from the 69,251 of 2019.

Email attacks that resulted in customers losing money went up from 40,227 reported in 2019 to 47,502 in 2020.

Money stolen via emails rose from $28.36 million in 2019 to a staggering $34.28 million in 2020.

Other methods scammers have used include social networking ($27.26m lost), mobile apps ($20.52m), internet ($29.05m), text messages ($3.03m) and a further $13.86m in other scams.

“After the consistently high level of scam activity we’ve witnessed month-to-month throughout 2020, these annual statistics paint the real picture of the unfortunate growth we’ve seen,” says Proofpoint ANZ area vice-president Crispin Kerr.

“The huge rise in phishing scams (up 75% from 2019) is perhaps the most concerning statistic of all in terms of sheer volume.

“However, as a tactic used by scammers, it’s not surprising to see that phishing was again so popular.

“It has a low entry barrier for cybercriminals with a high-value return. Phishing emails are very easy to create, require little technical knowledge and most importantly, depend solely on one user clicking to succeed.

“Unfortunately, threat actors have actively been using social engineering to convince people to click a link or open attachments, by playing on people’s fears relating to COVID-19, throughout the year.

“As we enter 2021, with promising news of vaccine rollouts taking place, we would advise people to remain vigilant against these types of phishing attacks as scammers will follow the news-cycle closely to adapt their tactics and lures to topical themes.

“Individuals should never click on links, open attachments, or disclose sensitive/financial information in response to unsolicited communications.”