On April 29, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a report entitled "Targeting scams on scams activity 2018"
In 2018, almost half a billion dollars ($489 million) in losses from over 378 000 scam reports was reported to the ACCC, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other state and territory government agencies. These losses represent an increase of 44 per cent over the $340 million reported in 2017 and demonstrate that the impact of scams on the Australian public is worsening. Despite these record loss figures, the true cost of scams is likely much higher as many scams are not reported. The reasons for this vary. Some scam victims are embarrassed, some are unaware of where to report scams and others may fear the consequences of their own behaviour, particularly if they are manipulated into committing crimes such as money laundering or participating in pyramid schemes. Unfortunately, there are also many Australians who are not aware that they are caught up in long-term scams and continue to send money to scammers for years. The losses reported to the government are just the tip of the iceberg. The ACCC’s Scamwatch service received a record 177 516 scam reports with over $107 million in losses, with ‘investment scams’ and ‘dating and romance scams’ remaining the most financially harmful. When combined with losses reported to ACORN and other government agencies, losses to ‘investment scams’ increased 34 per cent to $86 million and losses to ‘dating and romance scams’ increased 44 per cent to $60.5 million compared with 2017. In 2018 scammers continued to use technology to increase their reach and efficiency and to develop new techniques to scam more people. More scammers are now using social media and automated scam calls to access potential victims. In late 2018, reports of the Australian Taxation Office impersonation scam rose 900 per cent with tens of thousands of Australians reporting an automated ‘robo-call’ version of the scam. To avoid the fraud and scam detection systems employed by banks, scammers are now increasingly asking for payment via unusual payment methods such as gift cards and cryptocurrencies. In 2018 Apple iTunes cards remained the most requested but demands for payment via Google Play cards and other gift cards are increasing rapidly. The shift towards Google Play and other gift cards may be a result of efforts by the ACCC, the Australian Taxation Office and other government and private organisations to display scam warnings about iTunes cards in major Australian retailer outlets. Australian businesses were also hit hard by scammers in 2018 with sophisticated ‘business email compromise’ scams costing businesses over $60 million. These scams involve hacking business email systems and carefully impersonating key personnel to trick businesses into sending upcoming payments into a scammer’s account. Consumers can also be caught up in these scams, for example when undertaking real estate transactions. Unsuspecting consumers pay their house deposits or legal fees to scammers instead of the agents and solicitors.