Earlier this week, the ACCC revealed it had actually been cracking down on scams, not just talking about doing it. The watchdog is specifically targeting its attention towards websites hosting phishing and other scams. Surprising no one, a lot of these ‘scammy’ websites are (or were) hosting cryptocurrency investment scams.
Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Gina Cass-Gottlieb, said her agency was working with financial services regulator ASIC to remove these scam websites. She said the pair are undertaking an automated website takedown trial with a UK company Netcraft to remove scam websites, but only if they’ve been reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch or to ASIC.
“Over the past three weeks, we have submitted more than 300 malicious websites targeting Australians to the service, resulting in dozens of takedowns to date with dozens more pending,” Cass-Gottlieb said during a speech.
Many of these are phishing sites impersonating Australian businesses and government authorities, though others relate to puppy scams, shoe scams, cryptocurrency investment scams and tech support scams, she added.
Although Aussie regulators are doing their thing, Cass-Gottlieb reckons businesses should also be taking on the task.
“Organisations know when they are a regular target of impersonation by scammers,” she said.
“Organisations should actively monitor for, warn about, and request the removal of websites impersonating their brand … We also expect organisations to be monitoring their own platforms, services and transactions for scams.”
The announcement followed a report the ACCC published earlier this month that showed Australians lost over $1.8 billion to scams – and that’s just what was reported to government authorities – in 2021. The ACCC estimates the actual loss to be well in the $2 billion range. Most of these scams were investment ones, including the Wild West that is crypto.
There are two takeaways here: the first, please be careful with what you’re clicking on and the second, if you come across something bad, report it to the ACCC’s Scamwatch.
On crypto more specifically, Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC is concerned at the traditional banking sector’s role in cryptocurrency scams. She highlighted an example of a bank in the UK blocking transfers to crypto exchanges.
“Outright blocking of money transfers to any cryptocurrency exchange is not a path we are considering but that example is illustrative of the key role banks play in approving that first transfer of money to a cryptocurrency exchange during a scam,” she said.
“Banks often have a lifetime of data on their customers’ usual habits and have responsibility commensurate with that constructive knowledge of whether a customer is likely to be investing in cryptocurrency.”
Remember, if something is too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.