Progress on scams but social media urged to do more

Australia is finally making inroads on scam losses yet the battleground is shifting, with social media grifts an increasingly frequent and costly problem.

While the nation recorded its first annual fall in losses to fraudsters in seven years, based on the annual Targeting Scams report, scams via social media increased in terms of number and losses.

Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones said social media platforms needed to up their game.

“Social media companies can be doing much more than they are at the moment … they’ve got some of the best technology in the world and they can be doing far more to target and to pull down the damaging, criminal content that is appearing on their networks,” he told reporters on Monday.

He said the the telecommunications network had introduced stronger prevention measures and scams originating via their networks were falling as a result.

Scam losses originating from a phone call or text message decreased by 18 per cent and six per cent respectively while scams originating on social media increased by 17 per cent.

The federal government has been consulting with social media platforms and other sectors on mandatory industry codes that would require digital platforms, banks and telcos to curb scam risk or face penalties.

Mr Jones said the latest data underscored the importance of the upcoming codes of practice.

Australians lost a total of $2.74 billion to scams online, by phone or in person in 2023.

This figure was down from $3.15 billion in 2022, a 13 per cent decrease.

It marked the first time money lost annually from scams declined since 2016.

But Australians made 601,000 more scam reports in 2023, up from 507,000 in 2022.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Catriona Lowe said the fall in losses was encouraging and suggested measures such as the 2023 launch of the National Anti-Scam Centre were working.

“At $2.74 billion, that is still far too many dollars lost to Australians and significant emotional and other costs suffered by Australians as well,” Ms Lowe told reporters on Monday,

She said some groups were also more vulnerable than others, with losses among the 65 and older age group remaining stable rather than decreasing.

“These sorts of pieces of data tell us that in addition to general messages to the Australian community, we also need to be thinking about getting to particular target groups,” she said.

Investment scams continued to be the most costly to Australians but losses decreased by 13 per cent during the 12 months.

Remote access scam losses increased by 12 per cent and romance scam losses decreased by four per cent.

The report combined data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, AFCX, ASIC, and IDCARE to analyse trends by contact method and scam type.


* Stop – Don’t rush to act. Scammers will create a sense of urgency.

* Think – Ask yourself if you know who you are communicating with. Scammers can impersonate others and lie about who they are, especially online.

* Protect – Act quickly if something feels wrong. If you have shared financial information or transferred money, contact your bank immediately. Help others by reporting to Scamwatch.


Holly Hales and Poppy Johnston
(Australian Associated Press)


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