It's National Consumer Fraud Week, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has marked the occasion by releasing its annual statistics on the numbers of scams reported to it in 2010. The total number? 42,000, which is more than double the 2009 figure of 20,000.
The good news we can extract from this is that firstly we're more willing to report scams to the competition agency, and secondly we're not throwing quite so much money at scammers. The total loss attributed to scams was $63 million, which is slightly down on the 2009 number. While that would suggest we're not falling for scams as often, the numbers don't include unreported scams, so there's not much room for complacency.
The biggest area of rip-offs will be familiar material for anyone who has ever surfed through their spam inbox:
Just over half the scams reported to the ACCC concerned mass marketed advance fee fraud (MMAFF), the most reported scam category in 2010. This category includes advance fee/up-front payment, lottery and sweepstakes, unexpected prizes, and dating and romance scams (including adult services).
One major area of growth was in scams initiated by telephone (such as the infamous fake Microsoft support call), which rose from 2000 reported examples to more than 14000. As ever, we'd advise hanging up as soon as you receive that sort of call, deleting any emails that promise untold riches or demand you reset your password, and generally keeping your suspicion filters on high.