Social media scams increasing, says ACCC

Wednesday, 17 May, 2017

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There has been a 47% increase in scam activity, according to data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The annual Targeting Scams report showed that the ACCC’s Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) received a combined 200,000 reports about scams.

Losses reported to Scamwatch, ACORN and other scam disruption programs totalled $299.8 million.

The report has been released to launch the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce’s Fraud Week. This year’s theme, ‘Spot social media scams’, aims to create awareness among Australians about new social media scams that are being reported, what to look for and how people can avoid being scammed.

“This Fraud Week, we’re asking the millions of Australians who use social media to be aware that scammers are increasingly using social media platforms as a way to contact, trick and prey upon the unsuspecting,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

“We have witnessed a sharp increase in scams taking place through social media sites. It can be really hard to tell who’s genuine and who’s fake these days.”

The two most common social media scams Australians reported to Scamwatch were dating and romance, and fake trader scams. Around 30% of dating and romance scam victims (1352 people) who reported to Scamwatch were contacted via social media sites, in particular, Facebook.

“Dating and romance scammers trick their victims into falling in love with them and then use their victim’s trust to deceitfully take their money,” Rickard said.

“If someone you’ve met through social media but you’ve never met in person asks you for money, your alarm bells should be ringing. Don’t ever wire transfer or send money to someone you don’t know because you won’t see it again.”

Fake trader scams are also on the increase. Victims often report seeing advertisements for online stores on social media selling discounted products made by well-known brands. These online stores are fake, and the products that victims think they are buying do not exist.

While this type of scam is even harder to spot, there are some tips people can use.

“Wherever you see an offer that seems more generous than normal, do your research on the company, where the product is coming from, check the company’s website and try and find any reviews about the business before making a purchase. Only pay using secure payment methods such as Paypal or a credit card,” Rickard said.

The majority of reports to Scamwatch about scams via social media are taking place on Facebook.

“The ACCC is working with Facebook, as well as the major banks, MoneyGram, Paypal, Western Union and Apple, to better tackle scams and reduce the harm experienced by consumers,” Rickard said.

The best defence against scams is education and awareness. Consumers concerned about scams should visit to keep up to date with scams to look out for, report scam activity and get information about what to do if they become a scam victim.

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