Scammers stole over AU$3 billion from Australians in 2022 – here’s what to look for

A fish hook is lying across a computer keyboard, representing a phishing attack on a computer system
(Image credit: weerapatkiatdumrong / Getty Images)

Scammers cost Australians over AU$3.1 billion in 2022, an 80% increase on total losses that were recorded in the previous year, according to the latest data collected by Australia’s consumer watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Targeting scams report found that Aussie’s lost the most money to investment scams, which made up around half (AU$1.5 billion) of total losses in 2022.

Investment scams were followed by remote access scams, with reported losses of AU$229 million, and payment redirection scams, which cost Australians AU$224 million in 2022.

The report uses combined data collected by the ACCC’s Scamwatch, ReportCyber, financial institutions and other government agencies. Scamwatch estimates that 30% of people who fall victim to scams don’t report their losses, so the actual figures are likely even higher.

The 2022 losses are the highest ever recorded in Australia, though the ACCC’s deputy chair says the impacts are more than just financial.

“Australians lost more money to scams than ever before in 2022, but the true cost of scams is much more than a dollar figure as they also cause emotional distress to victims, their families and businesses,” says deputy chair Catriona Lowe.

“Alarming new tactics”

Despite the record amount of financial losses in 2022, the ACCC’s Scamwatch actually saw a 16.5% decrease in the amount of reports received in comparison to 2021. Though the number of reports received by Scamwatch were lower, the financial loss to each individual increased by more than 50%.

“We have seen alarming new tactics emerge which make scams incredibly difficult to detect,” says Lowe.

“This includes everything from impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organisations to scam texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages. This means now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam.”

Australians lost over $1.5 billion to investment scams in 2022. According to the ACCC, you need beware of anyone offering you easy money through an investment or a job. In investment scams, you may be contacted by someone impersonating a bank, a financial service provider or even a romantic relationship that began online.

Phishing is the most common scam

In 2022, the most common scheme reported to Scamwatch was phishing

“There has been an explosion of reported losses to phishing scams in the past year, such as “Hi mum” and Toll/Linkt text scams, which skyrocketed by 469% to $24.6 million in 2022,” Lowe said.

While Scamwatch received reports of AU$24.6 million lost to phishing, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) reported AU$133 million as having been lost by Aussies.

The AFCX includes data from the big four banks – National Australia Bank (NAB), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Westpac, as well as Bendigo Bank and Macquarie Bank.

A phishing scam often seeks to gain personal information from you, such as your bank account details, credit card numbers or passwords. The scammer may contact you via emails, text messages, or over the phone, and will often be impersonating a trusted organisation such as a bank, a telco, a government department or a retailer, in order to get your details.

According to the ACCC’s report, bank impersonation scams will often pretend to be from the bank’s cyber security or fraud department, and can appear in the same chain as legitimate messages. Other common phishing attempts will impersonate Amazon, eBay, Australia Post and others, and will claim your account has been hacked in order to get your details.

The ACCC notes that other trending phishing scams include the ‘Hi mum’ scam impersonating family members. The ‘Hi mum’ scam involves text messages being sent, purporting to be from the victim’s child. They can say they’ve lost their phone and are using a new number to create a sense of urgency, and will ask for money to be sent because of an emergency.

Unpaid road toll impersonation scams are also a popular scam, where victims are sent texts or emails for a supposed unpaid road toll. A link is included for the victim to make a payment for the road toll, which sends the scammers money and can also allow your bank details to be used for further unauthorised transactions.

Jasmine Gearie
Ecommerce Editor

Jasmine Gearie is an Ecommerce Editor at TechRadar Australia, with a primary focus on helping readers cut through the jargon to find the best mobile and internet plans for their needs. She crunches the numbers to maintain dedicated guides to the latest phones, NBN and broadband plans of all types, and covers the important telco industry news. She also hunts down tech deals on laptops, phones, gaming consoles and more, so readers know where to buy the products they want for the cheapest prices.