Australians are set to lose a record amount to scams in 2019, with projections from losses reported to Scamwatch and other government agencies so far expected to exceed $532 million by the end of the year, surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time.

This year’s National Scams Awareness Week (12-16 August) theme is ‘too smart to be scammed?’ and the ACCC, along with over 100 campaign partners from government and industry, is urging consumers to test their scams knowledge and refresh their scam protection and detection skills.

“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“People need to update their idea of what a scam is so that we are less vulnerable. Scammers are professional businesses dedicated to ripping us off. They have call centres with convincing scripts, staff training programs, and corporate performance indicators their ‘employees’ need to meet.”

Investment scams are one of the most sophisticated and convincing scams and continue to have the highest losses. Nearly half of all investment scams reported this year resulted in a financial loss.

These scams are prominent on social media, with ‘Facebook lottery’ scams, the ‘Loom’ pyramid scheme, and cryptocurrency scams particularly common.

Cryptocurrency investment scams have seen record losses, with reports to the ACCC alone of $14.76 million between January and July 2019. Many use social media platforms, fake celebrity endorsements or fake online trading platforms that are made to look legitimate.

Protection advice

“Our advice is to be wary of ads you see on the internet. Don’t be persuaded by celebrity endorsements or ‘not to be missed’ opportunities. You never know for certain who you’re dealing with or whether they’re credible,” Ms Rickard said.

“If you think you’re speaking to a friend on social media, call them, or find another way to contact them before acting on any advice that might result in you giving away your personal details or money.”

Scamwatch also suggests that people check ASIC's list of companies you should not deal with. If the company that contacted you is on the list — do not deal with them, and even if they are not listed, continue researching and speak to a financial advisor before investing.

Be vigilant on social media, when shopping online and when answering the phone, and never give anyone who has contacted you out of the blue your personal details, banking details or remote access to your computer, no matter who they say they are. It’s best to assume scammers are everywhere, waiting for you to let your guard down.

“Remember, anyone could fall victim and no one is ‘too smart to be scammed’. Always ask yourself, ‘could this be a scam?’ and if you’re ever in doubt, decline the contact or hang up the phone — it’s often the safest option,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC has produced a series of videos with tips and tricks on how to spot a scam, and to test people’s awareness of scams. The full series is also available on YouTube.

You can also follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.