Australians lost AUD$65 million to investment scams across 2020; new data acquired by Finbold indicates. Such losses are projected to surge by 51.9% to AUD$100 million by the end of 2021; with AUD$18.17 million worth of investment losses already occurring between January and February of this year alone.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (AAAC), in 2021, businesses have recorded over AUD$14 million in payment redirection scam losses, representing at least five times growth compared to a similar period last year. The growth rate might be replicated on investment losses hence the AUD$100 million projection by Finbold analysis.
On a year-over-year basis between 2018 and 2020, the value of losses has been increasing by 69.4%. In 2018, the losses stood at AUD$38.84 million, while in 2019, the figure increased to AUD$61.81 million
The data indicates that Australians continued to lose throughout 2020, losing AUD$65 million to investment scams during this period. The figure is unfortunately projected to grow 51.9% this year to AUD$100 million. Between January and February 2021, the average investment scam losses already hit AUD$18.17 million.
The already high losses in the first two months of 2021 point to continued growth in the coming months. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the consistent year-over-year growth, alongside the introduction of new sophisticated scam tactics, will likely only result in further losses for unsuspecting Australians.
Role of the Pandemic and Digital Transformation in Increasing Scams
The analysis also explains the link between digital transformation and the coronavirus pandemic, and the role such a relationship has played on the increase in scams. According to the report, “the different forms of scam losses are likely to keep surging as fraudsters exploit new avenues to mint money from victims. With the pandemic not yet fully contained, more people will still turn to digital platforms for managing finances.”
The report further highlights the top 10 scams present in Australia during 2020. Investment fraud tops at 39%, followed by dating and romance at 23%. False billing losses occupy the third-largest share at 11%, or AUD$19.32 million. Threats to life and arrests is fourth, taking a share of 7%, followed by remote access scams at 5%.
The rise in investment scams last year can be attributed to the preventative measures put in place to reduce the transmission of Covid-19; such as the national lockdowns and social distancing. This caused most people to shift to online platforms in order to manage finances; as well as to socialise. There was also a surge in online investment platforms, with scammers taking advantage of this to lure victims and their money.
Furthermore, the booming cryptocurrency market has presented an opportunity for scammers to steal money. In 2021, when the traditional market was struggling, the crypto sector led by bitcoin remained resilient, and scammers potentially exploited avenues on how to benefit.
The analysis shows that romantic encounters accounted for the second-highest experience of scams, and this too can be tied to the pandemic. At the onset of the health crisis, lockdowns meant that movement was restricted, and scammers eyed lonely people confined to their homes. For some people, most of their interaction was hosted through the use of online platforms, making them increasingly vulnerable to scammers. Notably, victims who exposed their emotional vulnerability became the primary targets.
The large-scale penetration of smartphones potentially contributes to the surge in scams. Phones are now the scammers’ delivery method of choice. In recent years, phones have transformed to support normal banking operations. Therefore, most people can access their money at a click of a button; this makes it easier for scammers since the chances of a victim being able to instantly transfer money is high.
Other notable scams include online shopping at AUD$7.38 million, Classified at AUD$5.52 million, health and medical products at AUD$3.91 million, identity theft taking AUD$3.07 million, and unexpected lottery owing AUD$1.7 million. Cumulatively, the top ten scams accounted for losses worth approximately AUD$175.66 million.
Furthermore, the analysis also explores the current outlook of scams that are risking the stability of Australia’s financial future. According to the research report “already, 2021 has recorded significant investment scam losses accounting for almost 30% of last year’s value in just two months. The huge loss signals that investment fraud might keep surging, corresponding with the year-over-year growth trend.”