The costs of scams in 2021 for the first nine months of the year have already reached $211 million — higher than that of the entirety of 2020.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch organisation, the losses were reported for the period between 1 January and 19 September, an increase of 89 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Nearly a third of this year’s losses so far, at over $63.6 million or 31 per cent, were from phone-based scams, which made up 113,000, or 53 per cent, of all scam reports for the period.
There has also been a significant increase in losses related to phishing, identity theft and remote access scams, which have increased by 261 per cent, 234 per cent and 144 per cent, respectively.
“The rise in identity theft-related scams is particularly concerning as scammers can use the personal information they obtain for use in other crimes,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“If you see a scam, please report it to Scamwatch, even if you haven’t lost any money. These reports are extremely important to us as they provide key information about any emerging scams or trends.”
The ACCC also said it has been sharing alleged scammer phone numbers with telecommunications providers for investigation and blocking.
Additionally, it has been working with banks to raise awareness about the Flubot malware, which the national competition watchdog warned has showed up in a recent surge of reports.
“In August, the new Flubot malware scams masquerading as fake voicemail and parcel delivery scams exploded, which have resulted in more than 13,000 reports in just eight weeks,” Rickard said.
“These scams are particularly concerning in our current climate, as many people are turning to online shopping because of the COVID-19 lockdowns.”
According to Telstra, Flubot operates by hackers sending a text message with a link, claiming that the user has a voicemail or delivery waiting for them, with the link supposedly containing more information.
However, the link contains malware that infects Android phones, which then sends a similar text message to the contacts stored on the phone.
The ACCC’s scam update comes months after it flagged business email compromise (BEC) and remote access scams were costing Australians $86 million in total over the 12 months as of July.