The financial cost of scams in Australia has risen by almost a third despite an overall drop in the number of reported cases.
According to new figures by the competition watchdog, Australians lost $634 million to criminal scammers in 2019, a sharp rise from $489 million the year previous.
This was despite the number of reported cases falling by 5 per cent, although the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) pointed out that only 13 per cent of those affected are likely to make a report.
In total, there were more than 353,000 combined reports to Scamwatch, other government agencies and the big four banks last year.
Broken down, the figures revealed business email compromise scams to be the most costly, hitting $132 million.
Meanwhile, $126 million was lost to investment scams and $83 million lost to dating and romance scams.
However, according to the ACCC, only 11.8 per cent of scam reports included a financial loss last year, with most people reporting to Scamwatch having not lost money or personal data to scammers.
Scams originating on social media increased by 20 per cent and contacts via mobile phone apps increased by 29 per cent, according to the ACCC’s data.
“Over the last decade, scammers have taken advantage of new technologies and current scams are using social media apps and new payment methods that didn’t exist in 2009,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“In particular, a new trend with dating and romance scams is scammers contacting the victim on social media apps or games which are not designed for dating, so it’s important to be aware that scammers can target you anywhere.”
The ACCC also pointed out that the start of 2020 saw an “explosion” of scams exploiting the bushfire crisis in Australia as well as the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time when Australians can least afford to lose money to scammers we need more than ever to stay on top of scams, look out for each other and find innovative ways to disrupt scams,” the report added.