Aussies lost $128M to business email compromise scams last year

Aussies lost $128M to business email compromise scams last year

Amid a record $851 million lost to all types of scams.

Credit: Credit: ID 67255616 © Liorpt |

Business email compromise scams were one of the top three scam categories for losses plaguing Australians during 2020, with combined losses of $128 million over the last year. 

This is according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Targeting Scams report.

In general, the scams reported operate with scammers impersonating a business or employees by email and requesting money to be sent to a fraudulent account. 

Details of high-level employees to impersonate may be easy to find online, according to the ACCC, as well as the format of company emails.  

The next step of a typical business email comprise scam involves scammers gaining access to business email accounts and their respective mailing lists to send out fake invoices with the scammer’s payment details instead of the legitimate company. 

A variant of these scams involves the scammer generating an email similar to the style of a given company and sending it out to employees or clients, creating a false sense of urgency in the attempt to dissuade people against verifying the claims in the email. 

Business email comprise scams were just behind romance scams, which cost Australians $131 million, and investment scams, which accounted for the most losses at $328 million. 

In total, a record $851 million was lost to scams in 2020, with $176 million reported to national consumer watchdog’s Scamwatch service. Roughly 1,300 reports of business email compromises were made to Scamwatch, accounting for just $14 million of total reported losses. 

“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,” ACCC deputy chair Delia 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.”   

Meanwhile, remote access scams were responsible for over $8.4 million, a rise of 74 per cent, but internet-based scam losses decreased by roughly 13 per cent, to $27.6 million in 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also created an environment that was ripe for scammers according to the nation’s consumer watchdog, with phishing scams up 75 per cent to over 44,000 reports, with losses up 11.3 per cent to $1.7 million.  

In fact, phishing, along with false billing scams, were the two scam types that businesses reported the most in 2020, which overall saw losses increase by 260 per cent to $18 million. 

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