Aussies were scammed out of $176 million in 2020 with investment tricks, dating and romance cons and false billing the most common.
The data from ACCC’s Scamwatch found scams had risen by 28 per cent compared to the previous year, with more than 216,000 recorded compared to 167,000 the previous year.
Aussies also lost more money in 2020 up 23 per cent from the $142 million recorded in 2019.
Phishing, where a scammer attempts to obtain sensitive information like usernames, passwords or credit card details by duping someone into believing they are from legitimate company like a bank, was the most reported type of scam.
There were more than 44,000 phishing attacks reported. Money stolen via email rose to $34 million in 2020, up from $28 million in 2019.
The huge rise in phishing scams — up 75 per cent from 2019 — was the most concerning, said cybersecurity company Proofpoint ANZ area vice-president Crispin Kerr.
“However, as a tactic used by scammers, it’s not surprising to see that phishing was again so popular. It has a low entry barrier for cybercriminals with a high-value return,” he said. “Phishing emails are very easy to create, require little technical knowledge and most importantly, depend solely on one user clicking to succeed. Unfortunately, threat actors have actively been using social engineering to convince people to click a link or open attachments, by playing on people’s fears relating to COVID-19, throughout the year.”
The most popular cons were investment with $66 million lost by Aussies, dating and romance wiped $37 million from bank accounts and false billing netted $18 million.
Threats to life or arrest robbed $11 million from Aussies and online shopping scams also raked in $8 million for fraudsters.
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Phone calls were a popular way to trick people with more than 103,000 attacks reported in 2020, while almost 50,000 emails were received.
December was the most lucrative month for tricksters with $22 million obtained from unsuspecting Aussies.
“As we enter 2021, with promising news of vaccine rollouts taking place, we would advise people to remain vigilant against these types of phishing attacks as scammers will follow the news-cycle closely to adapt their tactics and lures to topical themes,” said Mr Kerr.
“Individuals should never click on links, open attachments, or disclose sensitive or financial information in response to unsolicited communications.”