Record number of WA scam victims and losses in 2021
- WA ScamNet reports more than 1,000 victims lost $14.8 million last year
- Most money lost from investment and romance scams
- Highest number of scam victims was online shoppers
A record number of Western Australians fell victim to scams in 2021, also losing a record amount of money.
In its 2021 Year in Review Scam Report, WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection reveals that 1,041 victims, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year, reported losses totalling $14,791,708, an increase of 27 per cent. There were 4,128 scam reports received in total, an increase of 18 per cent.
These are the highest figures recorded since the annual scam reports were first compiled in 2015.
The greatest financial losses were recorded as result of investment cons ($6.67 million), mainly cryptocurrency, and romance/dating scams ($2.99 million). In terms of the number of victims, online shopping and buying/selling classified scams topped the list.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said the rise in scams reflected an increase in online trading, as well as the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
“As more and more consumers do business online, the risk of falling victim to scams increases as professional criminals become experts at hacking email accounts and creating fake websites, social media pages and classified ads,” Mr Newcombe said.
“There has been an avalanche of phony text messages and emails being sent to people which contain links to websites that seek to either steal money or gather personal and financial information, known as phishing, that can be used in identity theft. This is reflected in a 30 per cent increase in the number of phishing scams being reported and a five-fold increase in losses in this category.
“Malware or ransomware can also be installed on computers and mobile devices that give scammers access to a person’s email, social media and bank accounts.
“Scammers are quick to capitalise on popular products such as Bitcoin, knowing the attraction of get rich quick schemes that come with promises of large returns. An individual loss to an investment scam in 2021 was $730,000, which obviously has a devastating effect on the victim’s financial and emotional wellbeing.
“Scammers today are well organised and use sophisticated tactics to trick people into paying money or giving up personal information by threatening them or luring them with cheap prices or attractive winnings.
“Our general advice is for people to stop and think before sending anyone any money or providing information. Are you sure who you are dealing with is a legitimate person or business? Do independent checks to confirm their identity and the product or offer being made is genuine, which could just be a matter of calling that business or organisation to confirm, or do an internet search for warnings or negative comments on review sites.”
Tips to avoid scams:
- Don’t let anyone pressure you into making urgent decisions;
- Always get a second opinion from a trusted and reliable source if someone is requesting money;
- Do not respond to emails, text messages and phone calls from strangers offering predictions on shares, investment tips or investment advice – always do your own research and use licensed advisors;
- Know who you’re dealing with on dating sites – watch out for profiles on social media and dating websites of scammers claiming to live in your area, but can’t meet due to travel or moving away, and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person;
- Never allow anyone to remotely log into your computer;
- Take a moment to think about how an organisation is asking you to make payment – government agencies and businesses will never ask you to make a payment using iTunes or Google Play cards or gift cards.
Top 10 scams reported to WA ScamNet for 2021 by amount lost
Top 10 scams by number of victims 2021
Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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