Australians Lost $700 Million to Investment Scams Last Year, Mostly Crypto Ones

Australians Lost $700 Million to Investment Scams Last Year, Mostly Crypto Ones
Image: Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

In 2021, Australians lost over $1.8 billion to scams – and that’s just what was reported to government authorities. The ACCC estimates the actual loss to be well in the $2 billion range. Most of these scams, surprising no one, were investment ones, including the Wild West that is crypto.

In the ACCC’s latest annual Targeting Scams report, the watchdog said $701 million was lost to investment scams, $227 million to payment redirection scams (such as a fake email invoice requesting payment to a different bank account) and $142 million to romance scams. But as the ACCC noted: “as only about 13 per cent of victims report to Scamwatch, it is clear that these numbers vastly understate the extent of these scams”.

Crypto has a scam problem

The popularity and hype of cryptocurrency has led to a surge in losses to investment scams. At the same time, crypto is also becoming the preferred method of payment across all types of scams, the ACCC said.

The ACCC used its report to call for regulation on the nascent industry.

“I am hopeful that … regulatory measures will slow the growth of cryptocurrency scams in Australia. It is also pleasing to see Google taking steps to address scammers exploiting their platform with the recent announcement that it will make changes to its advertising policy and require advertisers wanting to promote financial services in Australia to complete a verification process and demonstrate that they are licensed by ASIC,” the report’s foreword, penned by ACCC chair Delia Rickard, said.

“That said, there is still more work that needs to be done to prevent scams across all digital platforms.”

Ponzi scams and pyramid schemes also increased in 2021. The ACCC listed these as separate to crypto scams, yet still under the ‘investment’ banner. The report noted Scamwatch received over 2,000 reports with almost $8 million in losses to Ponzi schemes.

Some standout scam stats

In 2021, over $1.8 billion was lost by Aussies to scams. There were a total of 286,622 reports made to the ACCC’s Scamwatch during this time. The most loss was felt by those aged over 65, they also made the most reports to Scamwatch. Only 0.9 per cent of those who reached out to Scamwatch were under 18.

Most scams are being conducted via phone, then by text message. Giving us all another reason to simply not answer a call.

It wasn’t just crypto scams, however, with the ACCC noting that from 2 August–31 December, Scamwatch received 26,496 reports about Flubot text messages with $10,743 in reported losses. Combined losses to remote access scams were $112 million in 2021.

If you receive a scam call or SMS message, report it to Scamwatch. If you have lost personal information to a scammer, contact IDCARE or call 1800 595 160. You can also contact ReportCyber if you have been a victim of a cybercrime.