Aussie businesses take $128m hit from payment redirection scams

Friday, 11 June, 2021

Aussie businesses take $128m hit from payment redirection scams

Payment redirection scams were the most financially damaging scams for Australian businesses in 2020, with combined losses reported to Scamwatch, other government agencies, banks and payment platforms totalling $128 million in 2020. Scamwatch data also showed that Australian businesses lost $18 million to scams in 2020, a 260% increase on losses reported in 2019.

Scamwatch data revealed that false billing scams were the most commonly reported scan by businesses, accounting for three-quarters of total losses to businesses. Small and micro businesses accounted for almost 60% of these false billing reports. While a range of false billing scams exists, the most common type identified by the ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report was payment redirection scams, also known as business email compromise (BEC) scams, with 1300 reports and $14 million in losses. This is a marked increase from the 900 reports and $5 million in losses reported in 2019. In payment redirection scams, scammers impersonate a business or its employees via email and request an upcoming payment be redirected to a fraudulent account.

“Small and micro businesses made most of the reports to Scamwatch and experienced an increase in losses in 2020, although larger businesses reported the highest losses,” said Mick Keogh, ACCC Deputy Chair.

Scamwatch also observed a new type of scam in 2020 that targeted farmers looking for a good deal on tractors and farm equipment. Scammers advertised equipment at prices below market value and told farmers they couldn’t view the tractors prior to purchase due to COVID-19 restrictions. Farmers made payments to secure these deals, when in reality the equipment never existed. Farmers were conned out of $1.1 million in these scams.

Businesses were also targeted by health and medical scams in 2020, with half of the $3.9 million in total losses reported to health and medical scams from businesses, as they attempted to procure personal protective equipment for their staff to comply with government guidelines during the pandemic. Other scams that impacted businesses in 2020 include phishing, identity theft and hacking scams.

“It is so important for businesses to stay informed about scams so they can protect themselves. The ACCC provides a range of resources for businesses on how to avoid scams on the Scamwatch website and in our media releases throughout the year,” Keogh said.

Businesses that have been scammed should contact their bank as soon as possible. Businesses can also report a scam to ReportCyber, which is run by the Australian Cyber Security Centre and passes reports to law enforcement agencies for assessment and intelligence purposes. Businesses can also make a report on the Scamwatch website.

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