The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released their annual Targeting scams report as they kick off Scam Awareness Week. They found that more people than ever are being scammed and that the amount of money we're losing is up on previous years with the average loss pegged at $6500.
Investment scams topped the list in the report with criminals netting $64M during 2017. I wonder if that will increase in 2018 as cryptocurrency scams become more popular to thieves, trying to take advantage of the exploding number of dodgy Intial Coin Offerings (ICOs). It's a big enough issue in the US that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched a site to educate people about fake ICOs.
Dating scams were also popular, dishing up losses of $42M.
And while it's tempting to think online communications are most likely to be used by criminals, over half the scams were kicked off either over the phone or by text message. When people were contacted online by scammers, email and social media were the prime contact methods used by the bad guys.
What are the lessons? Thieves use tools that they know will resonate with large parts of the population. Many people are looking for the secret to instant wealth or are lonely and want to find someone to share their life with. The bad guys exploit these desires as a way to intitiate contact. From there, the criminals maintain contact to slowly build trust and then access funds.
The ACCC runs the ScamWatch service to alert people about online scams they know about. And, when something comes though your inbox or over the phone, you can always use an online search engine to do some sleuthing of your own.