Commander's Desk | Half a billion lost to scammers

According to the ACCC, Australians lost almost half a billion dollars to scammers during the 2018 year. "Total combined losses reported to Scamwatch and other government agencies exceeded $489 million - $149 million more than 2017," ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard said.

The traditional frauds such as fake cheque, prescriptions and money laundered are still with us. However, a far simpler way is for con artists to use your home computer or your mobile phone against you. Scams such as fake page, catfishing, hacking, false billing and phising are draining us of our hard-earned money.

Catfishing is the term used when someone pretends to be someone else by either providing a fake photograph or creating a life story to develop a relationship, often followed with a request for money. A fake page recently on a social media site advertised a well-known Australian boot for the low sum of $50, well below the usual $300-$500 price tag. Comments on the web page mostly read, "fake, fake, fake", "no way can this be real".

Fake bills are now appearing electronically either with new or updated banking details, a fake bill of works or a phone call with threats of arrest or goal. By the way, Police don't call to provide a "pay now, get out of gaol free service".

Nothing is off limits. Recently I heard a family were called by an alleged overseas hospital telling them their daughter was involved in a serious motor vehicle collision and the hospital could not operate on her until a fee was paid for service. At the time the family did have a daughter travelling and only by good fortune they saw the scam.

The Hume Police District

The Hume Police District

Many scammers are by nature, 'fly by night'. It can be extremely difficult for investigators to track them down and take action. This is further complicated by the fact that most scammers are based overseas.

Where an actual crime has been committed, you may wish to contact your local police, or contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online. You will be asked to complete a fraud report form prior to an investigation commencing.

For online scams the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) help law enforcement to better combat the growing threat of cybercrime in Australia. Common types of cybercrime include hacking, scams, fraud, identity theft, attacks on computer systems and illegal or prohibited content.

The ACCC gathers information to help recognise scams, work towards avoiding, disrupting and taking action where appropriate. A good source of fraud information is the ACCC's "The Little Black Book of Scams".

Help reduce fraud by alerting your family, alerting your friends and alerting your neighbours.