What Were The Top Scams Last Year?

16 May 2016
Everyone knows that if someone emails you claiming to be royalty in a faraway country and asking for money, you click delete.

However it seems people aren’t nearly as wise to many other scams, with over 105,000 Australians reporting being scammed last year, and almost $85 million reported lost. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recently-released Targeting Scams Report, here is a list of the top 10 most reported scams from last year.

1. Investment schemes – 1,262 reports, $24 447 716 reported lost

Investment scams come in many guises including business ventures, superannuation schemes, managed funds and the sale or purchase of shares or property. Scammers dress up ‘opportunities’ with professional looking brochures and websites to mask their fraudulent operations and trick unsuspecting Australians.

2. Dating and Romance – 2,620 reports, $22 737 257 reported lost

These scams attempt to play on your emotions in order to acquire money or gifts. Many are perpetrated on dating sites, where elaborate fake profiles are set up, and a lengthy period of time is spent gaining your trust to the point where you may potentially agree to send them money for any one of a number of reasons.

3. Computer prediction and software scams – 426 reports, $5,534,878 reported lost

Computer prediction software and sports investment schemes often follow a simple formula, where they call victims and claim that they have software which can predict sporting events, financial markets or share price movements. They will then attempt to sell the software, a subscription to use the software or attempt to convince the victim to invest in a fund managed by the scammers. Often these calls involve claims of guaranteed and high returns.

People who have been approached with offers of such schemes have reported that the software or system does not work at all or does not operate as promised.

4. Nigerian Scams – 908 reports, $4,549,807 reported lost

Originally many of these scams emanated from Nigeria and are sometimes referred to as ‘419’ scams, taken from the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code outlawing the practice. In reality, the scams can come from anywhere in the world.

These scams are a form of advance fee fraud in which the scammer claims they have some money, often an inheritance or funds left behind by a corrupt politician, but they are unable to access it due to legal issues or some type of local conflict. Often the story will reference real world events.

The scammer claims they are desperately looking for someone to provide bank account details so they can offload the money.

5. Inheritance Scams – 78 reported, $4,391,630 reported lost

An initial letter or email will claim to be from a lawyer or banker, usually in Europe, who has a late client who happened to share the same surname as the recipient, or in the case of a banker is aware of an unclaimed account. The letter states the scammer has been searching for a genuine heir to the money but has been unsuccessful and the money will be lost if they fail. The scammer will then suggest that the victim can stand in as they have the same name as the deceased but in order for the process to appear legal, a series of fees and taxes must first be paid by the successor.

6. Phishing and Identity Theft – 9,328 reports, $1,816,361 lost

Phishing and identity theft go hand in hand; as the former involves tricking you into giving out your personal and banking information, while the latter then uses said information to steal or spend your money, or conduct illegal business under your name.

7. Online Shopping – 2,735 reports, $1,458,848 reported lost

These kinds of scams often involve a product being offered for an extremely low price. Once you buy it they ask for your bank details or credit card information, and then they take your money. They may even send you a product, but it’s likely to be worthless or broken.

8. Lottery and Sweepstake Scams – 3,683 reports, $1,337,296 lost

You?ll get a text message or an email out of nowhere telling you that you’ve won a large sum of money from a lottery you never entered. You’ll be asked for your personal/banking details so they can send you the money, and they may ask for a fee to release your winnings.

9. Reclaim scam – 12,589 reports, $1,331,063 reported lost

Reclaim scams usually involve a phone call from someone claiming to be a government or business representative stating that due to some error, you are owed money. The scammers may claim to be from the Australian Taxation Office or perhaps a made-up department like the ‘Reclaims Department’. However, in order to claim the money, a fee must be paid upfront for ‘administration’ or ‘legal costs’.

10. Job and Employment – 2,456 reports, $952,742 reported lost

Job and employment scams generally target those who are recently unemployed, or looking for a new job. They offer huge incomes for very little work, but will often ask for an upfront payment from you for “work materials” or something similar. Many of these scams result in only the scammer making any money.

While there’s no guarantee that you’ll never fall for a scam, there are a few fairly basic tips for not getting scammed. Stay alert when you’re online and on your phone, and remember to never give out any personal, financial, or banking information to anyone that you’re not 100% sure of their reliability or authenticity. The government’s Scamwatch website has some more great tips – check them out.


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