Research report

Targeting scams: report of the ACCC on scam activity 2012

11 Jun 2013
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Description

This report explains key trends in scam activity in 2012 and highlights the impact of scams on the community.

Snapshot of 2012

Scam reports

  • In 2012 the ACCC continued to observe a high level of scams activity in Australia, with 83 803 scam-related contacts received from consumers and small businesses.
  • Estimated scam losses reported to the ACCC totalled $93 423 030, a nine per cent increase from 2011. Actual losses are likely to be higher as many scams go unreported and the ACCC is only one of several agencies that receive scam reports.
  • Similar to 2011, the majority of consumers and small businesses contacting the ACCC about scam-related activities in 2012 (nearly 88 per cent) reported no financial loss. The most common category of loss was again between $100 to $499. This indicates the continued use of ‘high volume scams’, which are delivered to large numbers of recipients but cause smaller amounts of loss per victim. At the same time, the ACCC continued to receive reports of individuals suffering very high losses.

Most reported scams

  • For the fourth consecutive year, advance fee/up-front payment scams were the most commonly reported scam type, constituting 32 per cent of all scam contacts.
  • Computer hacking remained the second most reported scam type in 2012, representing just over 13 per cent of total scam reports to the ACCC. The ‘Microsoft’ computer virus scam continued to heavily target Australians. The public was also targeted by a scareware scam where the perpetrators pretended to be from the Australian Federal Police.
  • Online shopping scams increased by 65 per cent with reported financial losses totalling $4,038,479.
  • The ACCC also received a high level of contacts about banking and online account scams, false billing, job and employment scams, dating and romance, and unexpected prize scams.

Age range and location demographics

  • In 2012 scams were most commonly reported by persons in the 35 to 44 age category, representing 32 per cent of contacts. This saw a shift from the previous year, where contacts were spread across a wider range of age from 25 through to 54 years.
  • The greatest amounts of scam reports to the ACCC came from New South Wales (23.5 per cent), Queensland (21 per cent), Victoria (18 per cent) and South Australia (12.5 per cent).

Scam delivery method

  • Scams delivered via telephone (landline and mobile) remained the preferred delivery method in 2012, with combined voice and text message scams constituting over half (56 per cent) of all reports to the ACCC. Unsolicited telephone calls represented just over 42 per cent (35 419) of contacts reported to the ACCC, accounting for $24 213 979 in reported losses. Scams delivered via SMS represented over 14 per cent (11 797) of total contacts and $759 986 in reported losses.