Australians Lose $851M in 2020 as Scammers Exploit COVID-19 Pandemic

Over $851 million was lost to scams in 2020 — the biggest losses ever recorded in a single year — as scammers capitalised on the coronavirus pandemic to defraud Australians.

June 7, 2021 | AtoZ Markets Australians lost a record-breaking $851 million to scams in 2020 as cyber criminals took advantage of the global COVID-19 pandemic to con vulnerable users.

According to the data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), 444,000 reports from scam victims were provided to them by banks, government agencies and financial intermediaries.

Investment scams accounted for the biggest losses, with $328 million, and made up more than a third of total losses.

Romance scams were the next biggest category, costing Australians $131 million, while payment redirection scams resulted in $128 million of losses.

Australians lost over $851m to scammers in 2020

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said the most shocking factor was the $851 million lost was only the amount known and reported by victims.

Last year, scam victims reported the biggest losses we have seen, but worse, we expect the real losses will be even higher, as many people don’t report these scams,” Ms Rickard said.

Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated and last year used the COVID-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walks of life during this crisis.”

The pandemic pushed more users online, and exposed vulnerable users to more facets of online life including online grocery shopping and banking.

Health and medical scams increased more than 20-fold compared to 2019, accounting for over $3.9 million in losses.

Losses to threat-based scams increased by 178% to $11.8 million, and there were more than $8.4 million in losses to remote access scams, an increase of over 74%.

Australians Lose $851M in 2020 as Scammers Exploit COVID-19 Pandemic

Kate Browne, personal finance expert at Finder, said the current financial crisis has provided scammers with greater opportunities to take advantage of Australians at their most vulnerable.

Fraudsters are increasingly seeking to take advantage of those experiencing uncertainty and financial instability,” she said.

Scammers are quick to capitalise on major events such as a pandemic so it’s important to be extra vigilant over the coming years.”

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