Scam Losses Fall In Australia, Except For Over-65s

May 2, 2024
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Total losses to scams in Australia have fallen for the first time in six years, but not for the over-65s, who remain the most targeted demographic, a new report has found.

Total losses to scams in Australia have fallen for the first time in six years, but not for the over-65s, who remain the most targeted demographic, a new report has found.

The report from Australia’s National Anti-Scam Centre shows that total losses to scams fell to A$2.74bn ($1.79bn) in 2023, a 12 percent drop from the record-breaking A$3.1bn ($2bn) in 2022.

The progress is all the more impressive considering that scam attempts appear to be increasing. In 2023, the centre catalogued 601,000 scam reports across all channels, an increase of more than 18 percent over the previous year.

Investment scams continue to make up the bulk of losses, accounting for almost half (A$1.3bn) of total losses in 2023.

Source: National Anti-Scam Centre

This was followed by remote access at A$256m, romance scams at A$201m and phishing scams at A$137m. Payment redirection was the smallest category, contributing to A$91m in losses.

Catriona Lowe, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said the reduction in losses is the result of the “concerted efforts” of government, law enforcement, private sector and community organisations.

“While we are cautiously optimistic that our combined efforts will see this downward trend in scam losses continue, we know that behind the losses remain real people who have lost money, often their life savings, to scams,” she said.

“This is why we remain committed to identifying and removing weak links that scammers could otherwise exploit.”

Luke Raven, senior partner for financial crime compliance at Bank of Queensland, noted that despite the downward trend, total losses are still triple what they were in 2020. “Huge kudos to banks, but it’s still no time to pop the bubbly,” he said.

Source: National Anti-Scam Centre

The progress was not shared equally by all. Australians over the age of 65 continue to be disproportionately affected by scams, both in terms of total losses and total scams reported.

Data from Scamwatch, one of Australia’s reporting channels, shows that over-65s lost 13 percent more to investment scams in 2023 than in 2022, and reported twice as many scams as those aged 35 to 44.

Source: National Anti-Scam Centre

Over the next two years, Lowe said the National Anti-Scam Centre will continue building new technologies to coordinate intelligence and distribute information to those on the frontlines of scam prevention.

This includes helping banks to freeze accounts, telcos to block calls and text messages, and digital platforms to take down websites or social media accounts.

Although cooperation can “achieve a great deal”, Lowe said that participation in the fight against scams must become standardised and mandatory across the financial services sector.

That is why the ACCC continues to work with the Treasury to develop a Scams Code Framework, which will include mandatory and enforceable obligations on banks, telcos and digital platforms.

“We need all parties at the table — not just the volunteers,” she said.

As covered by Vixio, the government opened its first consultation for the Scams Code Framework in November 2023.

New initiatives

This year’s annual "Targeting Scams" report was the first published since the creation of the National Anti-Scam Centre in July 2023.

Established under the authority of the ACCC, the National Anti-Scam Centre is a key part of the government’s wider anti-scam strategy.

In the 2023-24 budget, the centre was provided A$86.5m in funding, part of which will be used to build an SMS Sender ID registry designed to prevent scammers imitating trusted industry or government brands in text messages.

Other jurisdictions, such as Singapore, already have similar registries in place.

The centre will also continue to work with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to take down scam websites.

Since the previous "Targeting Scams" report was published, ASIC has blocked more than 3,500 websites hosting phishing and investment scams.

The National Anti-Scam Centre is also developing technology to facilitate fast intelligence gathering and information sharing through an Actionable Scam Intelligence Service.

This new digital capability will enable the near real-time exchange of scam intelligence to organisations that can block and stop scams.

In the second half of 2024, more government agencies and key businesses will be connecting and exchanging data through the National Anti-Scam Centre.

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