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Scammers targeting CALD communities – ACCC

1 May 20240 comments

People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are being targeted disproportionately by scammers offering bogus jobs, according to a new report by the National Anti-Scam Centre.

The report says CALD communities were disproportionally impacted by job scams as were people looking for part-time work or seeking to supplement their income and ease cost of living pressures.

The ‘Targeting Scams’ report revealed losses of $2.74 billion, a 13.1 per cent decrease in reported losses on the previous year. However, the report also estimated that a third of scam victims do not report the rip offs.

Using data collected by Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX), IDCARE and ASIC, the report shows that Australians made over 601,000 scam reports to these organisations in 2023, an 18.5 per cent increase on 2022.

In terms of financial losses, investment scams continued to cause the most harm, at $1.3 billion, followed by remote access scams at $256 million and romance scams at $201.1 million.

The report said older people suffered the greatest harm at the hands of scammers. People over the age of 65 were the only age group to experience an increase in reported losses.

“Losses for people over the age of 65 increased by 13.3 per cent in 2023 to $120 million. All other age groups reported a decrease in losses,” the report said.

“People over the age of 65 were disproportionally impacted by investment scams. Many reported significant losses to scams resulting from contact initiated on social media.

“Text messages were the most reported contact method with 109,621 reports (37.3 per cent increase from 2022).

“However, scam calls resulted in the highest reported losses at $116 million. Scams in which contact occurred via social media resulted in the second highest in reported losses, increasing by 16.5 per cent to $93.5 million.

“Losses to job scams rose by 151.2 per cent to just over $24.3 million,” the report said.

Increases in reports of financial losses to phishing scams, payment redirection scams and job scams were also reported.

The report says scam activity is on the rise globally in recent years and it highlights the impact of targeted and coordinated disruption activities across government, industry, law enforcement and community organisations, leading to lower overall financial losses.

“It is encouraging to see signs that our coordinated scam prevention, detection and disruption initiatives can stem the flow of funds to criminals and protect consumers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.

“We are optimistic that our combined efforts will continue to reduce scam losses. We will continue this important work because losses remain too high and behind the numbers are real people who have lost money, often every last cent, to scams.”

“That’s why we remain committed to ensuring there are no weak links for scammers to exploit. A Scams Code Framework with strong, mandatory and enforceable obligations on banks, telcos and digital platforms will be central to this,” Ms Lowe said.

“Good data and intel sharing is also key, and we will be adding to the number of parties sending data into the National Anti-Scams Centre having made good progress on sending data out.”

“Scammers are financial criminals who use sophisticated technology and psychology to rob Australians of their money and personal information,” Ms Lowe said.

“Reports to Scamwatch indicate scammers are targeting older Australians with retirement savings, who may be looking for investment opportunities.”

The report included details a of case where an elderly woman lost her life savings after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video on social media, clicking the link and registering her details online.

She was assigned a ‘financial advisor’ and could see on an online dashboard she was apparently making returns, but she couldn’t withdraw her money.”

“While the National Anti-Scam Centre has made a positive impact since it was established on 1 July 2023, there is much more work to do. Over the next two years we will continue to invest in technology-based solutions that will centralise intelligence and distribute information to those who can act on it – such as banks to freeze accounts, telcos to block calls or SMSs and digital platforms to take down websites or accounts,” Ms Lowe said.

“We will partner with other organisations to tackle the most harmful scams and we will continue to raise scams awareness with the people who are most at-risk as we work towards our common goal of making Australia a harder target for scammers,” she said.

The ACCC’s Top tips to avoid scams:

STOP – Don’t rush to act. Scammers will create a sense of urgency.

THINK – Ask yourself if you really know who you are communicating with? Scammers can impersonate others and lie about who they are – especially online.