Almost half a billion lost to scams

Almost half a billion lost to scams in 2018

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Beware: Scammers used automated phone calls to target people late in 2018. Photo: Shutterstock.

Beware: Scammers used automated phone calls to target people late in 2018. Photo: Shutterstock.

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Australians lost $149 million more to scammers in 2018 than the year prior.

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AUSTRALIANS lost nearly half a billion dollars to scams last year.

To put that in perspective, the money lost could have funded more than 17,000 new home care packages.

According to a new report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Monday, the total amount lost in 2018 was $489.7 million - $149 million more than 2017.

"These record losses are likely just the tip of the iceberg. We know that not everyone who suffers a loss to a scammer reports it to a government agency," said the commission's deputy chair Delia Rickard.

Investment scams were the most financially devastating scams at $86 million, an increase of more than 34 per cent compared with 2017.

Lonely singles were also targeted, with $60.5 million lost in dating and romance scams.

"These extraordinary losses show that scammers are causing significant financial and emotional harm to many Australians," Ms Rickard said.

"Scammers are adapting old scams to new technology, seeking payment through unusual methods and automating scam calls to increase their reach to potential victims."

This includes automated phone calls used by scammers to impersonate Australian Taxation Office officials and threaten victims with arrest for "unpaid taxes".

"Scammers are using pressure and fear tactics combined with technology to trick people into parting with their money," Ms Rickard said.

"Scammers increasingly ask for money via iTunes cards, Google Play cards and cryptocurrencies to avoid the anti-scam measures employed by banks and money laundering detection systems."

If you suspect you've been scammed, call your local police station and report it to Scamwatch.

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