Research report

Targeting scams: report of the ACCC on scam activity 2013

16 Jun 2014
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Description

Explains key trends in scam activity and highlights the impact of scams on the community.

Overall contacts levels and financial losses
• In 2013 the ACCC continued to observe a high level of scams activity in Australia, with 91 927 scamrelated contacts received from consumers and small businesses, an increase of nearly 10 per cent over 2012.
• Estimated scam losses reported to the ACCC totalled $89 136 975, representing an almost 5 per cent decrease from 2012 ($93 423 030)—a reversal in trend from 2011 and 2012 where large increases were observed. However, 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.

Most reported scams
• In 2013 dating and romance scams moved to number one position in terms of financial losses, with $25 247 418 reported lost. For the third consecutive year the ACCC has observed a decrease in the conversion rate of people who responded to an approach by a scam admirer and subsequently lost money—from 48 per cent in 2011 to 46 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent in 2013. However, financial losses continue to remain substantially disproportionate to contacts, with dating and romance scams making up only 3 per cent of all scam-related contacts in 2013.
• Similar to previous years, the majority of people contacting the ACCC about scam-related activities in 2013 (slightly over 86 per cent) reported no financial loss. Nearly one third of people who lost money reported losing between $100 and $499, which indicates scammers continuing to prefer ‘high volume scams’—that is, scams that 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 significant losses. Over 10 per cent of scam contacts reported losing above $10 000. However, there were only two reports of losses above $1 million in 2013 compared to six reports in 2012.
• In 2013 the top 10 scams reported to the ACCC in terms of contact levels remained the same with some minor movements in ranking. The three most commonly reported scams were advance-fee fraud, phishing and identity theft, and computer hacking scams.
• The ACCC observed a significant increase in phishing and identity theft scams, with reports increasing by over 73 per cent from 2012 to 15 264 contacts. Actual financial losses remained low, suggesting that scammers are instead seeking personal information for later gain.
• Computer prediction software scams saw a significant increase in both contacts and financial losses
 rom the previous year, with an increase of 41 per cent in contact levels and associated losses more than doubling to a total of $9 144 288. This increase is likely attributable to a collapsed gambling system in Victoria, which received widespread media coverage.

 

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