$340 million lost to scammers in 2017

Identity fraud scam victim Heather Ritchie.
Identity fraud scam victim Heather Ritchie.

Australians lost more money to scammers in 2017 than in any other year since the ACCC began reporting on scam activity.

The ACCC’s ninth annual targeting scams report said more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017. 

Many of those reports came from regional towns like Young.

Investment scams topped the losses at $64 million,  dating and romance scams caused the second greatest losses at $42 million.

Last year Heather Ritchie from Murringo spoke with the Witness about her experience of being caught in an online scam that involved identity fraud. 

The scam started when Heather was browsing online; a website was interrupted by a “pop-up” with both a visual and auditory message warning her that her computer had experienced a security breach and to make contact with “Microsoft” within the next five minutes. 

“It was compelling as a Microsoft initiated warning and set up a sense of urgency to act, which I foolishly did,” Mrs Ritchie said.

"After ringing the number, I was initially reassured by the operator that I had done the right thing and they would be able to assist me in preventing my computer being further compromised. This involved me giving them access to my computer remotely. 

"I hope that by sharing my story others will be aware and just turn their computer off if they get a similar pop up on their screen."

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in some cases people had lost more than $1 million.

“Some scams are becoming very sophisticated and hard to spot and can be very frightening,” she said.

“If you’re being threatened, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if the call makes sense. The ATO will never threaten you with immediate arrest; Telstra will never need to access your computer to ‘fix’ a problem, and Centrelink will never require a fee to pay money it owes you. “If something doesn’t feel right, hang up the phone or hit delete.

“If the person said they were, for example, from Telstra or the ATO, find the phone number for that organisation online or in the phone book, call them and let them know about the call you received. They’ll let you know if it’s genuine or a scam.”

The ACCC encourages people to visit www.scamwatch.gov.au to report scams.