People are being urged to be extra vigilant about scams after an almost 90 per cent increase in the number of reports this year, according to new Scamwatch data.
Australians have reported a record $211 million in losses to scams so far this year - an increase of 89 per cent compared to the same period last year. A large proportion of victims have been in Victoria, with 49,252 reports filed and losses of $47.9 million until August 31.
The losses have already surpassed the $175.6 million reported to Scamwatch for the entirety of 2020.
It has led the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to express concern about how scams are evolving and becoming more sophisticated to steal even more money from unsuspecting people. ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, said the proportion of reports involving a financial loss had dropped but those who did lose money were losing larger amounts. People aged over 65 experienced the most financial losses.
"The average loss so far this year is about $11,000 compared to $7,000 for the same period in 2020" she said.
Of the 213,000 reports Scamwatch has received so far this year, 113,000 were about phone scams. These involve scammers calling or texting people, claiming to be from businesses or government departments, to steal people's personal information and details. More than 30 per cent of the losses were related to phone scams, accounting for more than $63.6 million in losses.
"Scammers are pretending to be from companies such as Amazon or eBay and claiming large purchases have been made on the victim's credit card. When they pretend to help you process a refund, they actually gain remote access to your computer and steal your personal and banking details."
In August, new Flubot malware scams masquerading as fake voicemail and parcel delivery scams "exploded". Scamwatch has received more than 13,000 reports about these in eight weeks.
"These scams are particularly concerning in our current climate, as many people are turning to online shopping because of the COVID-19 lockdowns."
There has also been a substantial increase in losses to phishing scams (261 per cent), remote access scams (144 per cent), identity theft (234 per cent) and investment scams (172 per cent).
Ms Rickard said identity theft scams were "particularly concerning" as scammers could use the personal information obtained for use in other crimes. She encouraged anybody who is contacted about a suspected scam, even if no money is lost, to report it to Scamwatch.
Information gathered from reports allows Scamwatch to work with organisations, including government agencies and law enforcement, to disrupt scams and provide advice to the community.
Examples include the ACCC sharing alleged scammer phone numbers with telecommunications providers for investigation and potential blocking, as well as working with banks to raise awareness with customers who may have been compromised by Flubot scams.
Ms Rickard said it was really important people knew how to identify scams and urged not to click on links in randomly received text messages and never to provide personal or bank details to someone unknown.
"Remember, you never know who you are dealing with online. Scammers often pretend to be from a well-known organisation and they will pretend to offer you something such as money or a benefit, or claim that you are in trouble."
"If you think something might be legitimate, call the organisation or government agency back using details you find in an independent search, rather than the details provided."
Anyone who has provided banking details to a scammer should contact their bank as soon as possible. People who suspect they may be a victim of identity theft should contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or via www.idcare.or