Internet scams cost Aussies $70 million

Online shopping and banking are key fraud areas

An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) report reveals that Australians lost almost $70 million to scammers last year.

The report, Targeting Scams - Report of the ACCC on Scam Activity 2009, was released today in conjunction with the launch of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce’s (ACFT) 2010 Fraud Week campaign.It reveals that more than 20,000 scam reports were made to the ACCC last year — a 16 per cent rise since 2008.

The ACCC recorded a spike in online shopping scams of over 100 per cent in 2009 compared to the year before. In has made online scams the predominant focus for its new campaign.

Peter Kell, chairperson of the ACFT and deputy chairperson of the ACCC, said that this sharp rise in online scamming is mainly due to the large number of Internet users.

“The fundamental reason [for the increase in scams] is the growth in the community’s online usage — we are all now an extensive part in the virtual world", he said.

Last year also saw a big increase in the reported number of false billing scams (up nearly 60 percent) and banking scams (a 40 per cent increase).

“One of the most common problems is that scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, and that has arisen in the banking arena,” said Kell. “The key is for the consumer to be able to identify a scam, and that is what Fraud Week aims to do.”

Telstra, to coincide with the launch of Fraud Week, has released some of its own advice to help the Australian public combat scamming.

“Scammers target all age groups so it is important to think smart when online, no matter how Internet savvy you are. Internet scams and schemes are an escalating problem in Australia with fraud costing the Australian community $8.5 billion each year,” Telstra’s Officer of Internet Trust and Safety, Darren Kane, said.

“So when it comes to shopping online for a new car, a pair of heels, or an antique vase be aware of common internet scams. And remember, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is,” he added. “Events like Fraud Week allow us to remind Australians of a few key things when online, such as: never give out personal information in response to unsolicited e-mails or messages from unfamiliar sources, make sure you use reputable sites when buying or selling and check your bank statements regularly,” he said.

Kell added: “if the request for money comes out of the blue, just hit delete”.

Fraud Week runs from March 1 to 7. For more information visit the ACCC SCAMwatch site.

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