The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) disclosed in a report dated May 2019 that 378,000 cases of scams, mostly from the online environment were reported to the commission for the whole of 2018. Australians collectively lost AU$489 million, 41.7% more than 2017. ACCC runs Scamwatch, which separately collected 177,516 reports, that number is so huge, the reports almost double compared to 2013 data (94% more reports).
“In 2018, almost half a billion dollars ($489 million) in losses from over 378 000 scam reports was reported to the ACCC, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other state and territory government agencies. These losses represent an increase of 44 per cent over the $340 million reported in 2017 and demonstrate that the impact of scams on the Australian public is worsening,” explained Delia Rickard in the report, she is the Senior Executive Leader for Financial Literacy, Consumers, Advisers and Retail Investors, Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
It is really difficult for ACCC as there are more ways now to pay for goods and services. Other than direct bank account debit and charging to credit limits, cryptocurrencies entered the global and Australian economy. The iOS and Android platform also have an exclusive way for their consumers to pay for the content in the form of Apple iTunes cards and Google Play cards. The Australian Taxation office warns users through specifically made-warning labels on all retail purchased iTunes cards in Australia, but no counterpart warning label for Google Play cards.
“Australian businesses were also hit hard by scammers in 2018 with sophisticated ‘business email compromise’ scams costing businesses over $60 million. These scams involve hacking business email systems and carefully impersonating key personnel to trick businesses into sending upcoming payments into a scammer’s account. Consumers can also be caught up in these scams, for example when undertaking real estate transactions. Unsuspecting consumers pay their house deposits or legal fees to scammers instead of the agents and solicitors,” highlighted Rickard.
There is no exact technology can prevent financial scams, as the weakest link in the chain are humans. There are people that fall for scams regardless of the technology being used, for debit/credit cards, the chip-and-pin system AKA EMV was very substantial in lessening fraudulent transactions compared to magnetic-swipe cards. However, financial cybersecurity requires a change of mindset for all users who deal with online banking, online merchants and online transactions, end-users of these systems are the first victims of any fraud or cyber attacks on the same systems used for financial transactions. Australians in this context are not special, they are as vulnerable to fraud, phishing, social engineering and misdirections which can lead to data theft or a breach in the system.
“Scams are a complex and evolving problem affecting every demographic in Australia and continue to cause substantial financial and emotional damage. The scams reported to the ACCC are perpetrated overwhelming by criminals overseas, which makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to track them down and take action against them once the scam has occurred. The ACCC expects private organisations to do more to ensure their services, platforms, technology and systems are not able to be exploited by scammers,” concluded the Rickard.