From the beginning of the year to the end of August, losses due to cryptocurrency investment scams accounted for over a quarter of all scams reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC said that it received 3,007 reports totaling losses of AU$53.2 million in response to a notice from the Senate Select Committee on Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre. This accounted for 55% of all investment fraud losses and 48% of all investment fraud reports.
New South Wales had 860 reports for losses of AU$20.6 million, Victoria had 563 reports for losses of AU$12.6 million, Queenslanders lost AU$8.2 million and submitted 485 reports, and Western Australia had 268 reports for losses of AU$3.8 million.
People in the 55-64 age group lost over AU$12.6 million and submitted 365 complaints, while those over 65 lost AU$10.7 million and filed 356 reports, and those in the 44-54 age group filed 352 reports and lost AU$8.7 million. The losses declined with age, with individuals aged 35-44 reporting 627 losses totaling AU$7.6 million. Young people aged 25 to 34 lost AU$7 million and filed 570 reports.
Between January and July 2021, Australians lost over 70 million AUD (or 50 million USD) as a result of such scams, according to Delia Rickard, ACCC Deputy Chair. The most popular investment frauds included cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin.
Ms. Rickard went on to say that threat actors frequently entice victims with promises of high earnings and minimal risk. She cautioned that such incidents should draw the attention of investors rather than luring them in carelessly. “Be wary of investment opportunities with low risk and high returns. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she said.
“While the proportion of reports involving a financial loss has dropped this year, the people who do lose money are losing bigger amounts. The average loss so far this year is about AU$11,000 compared to AU$7,000 for the same period in 2020,” Delia said.
According to the ACCC, phishing scams have increased by 261%, remote access scams have increased by 144%, and identity theft has increased by 234%. The consumer watchdog said it has been giving scammer phone numbers to Australian carriers and working with banks to “raise awareness with their consumers” who may have been infected with the Android spyware Flubot.