WA victims lose $10 million to scams in 2016

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The number of West Australians duped by scammers dropped by 17 per cent in 2016, with romance fraud still the most common type of scam despite a 34 per cent drop in victim numbers.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said 377 victims reported losing $10,057,015 to scams overall in 2016, with $4.1 million lost to relationship fraud.

"While most scam categories have seen a drop in both victims and losses, there are two categories that have seen huge increases in losses which is a cause for concern," Mr Mischin said.

"Technology scams have seen a 17 per cent increase in victim numbers while the losses have almost tripled.  Scammers contact their victims usually by phone and pretend to be from a well-known telecommunications company such as Telstra, saying their computer has been hacked.

"They trick the person into giving them remote access to their computer and then ask them to log on to their online banking, where the bank accounts are later raided.

"The other area of concern is the doubling of losses from investment scams to $2.6 million in 2016, even though there has been a slight drop in the number of victims in this category.

"Using fake websites and sometimes stealing the identity of legitimate companies, the scammers dupe investors with promises of quick financial gains.  A range of different investments are offered by scammers, particularly in the area of binary option trading."

The Minister said Project Sunbird, a joint initiative between Consumer Protection and the Major Fraud Squad at WA Police, had continued to be a highly successful and effective intervention method, which monitored money transfers from Australia to countries in western Africa.

"The project has contained losses for many WA victims of romance and investment fraud, with about 74 per cent of the 700 people who received a letter from Sunbird ceasing to send more money, after being warned that they could be the victim of a scam," he said.

Mr Mischin today released the 2016 Scam Review report prior to the destruction of almost 70,000 scam mail items, bound for Australian homes, that had been intercepted in the past two years in a joint operation between Consumer Protection and Australia Post.

"The letters mainly inform recipients that they have won a prize or lottery but must pay a small fee upfront in order to receive it.  There are also letters from clairvoyants who say they can provide secrets to finding fame and fortune, again for a small fee," he said.

"Had these letters been delivered, there is a potential for recipients to be tempted to respond and be conned into giving money for a product or service that either doesn't exist or won't deliver on the false claims being made."

Fact File

Minister's office - 6552 5600

Consumer Protection
Media release
18 Jan 2017

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