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  • Writer's pictureL Xu and M Bacina

ACCC reported $21.6 million lost in crypto scams in 2019

On 22 June 2020, ACCC reported that Australians have lost over $21.6 million in digital currency scams in 2019.

The Targeting Scams Report released by the Australian consumer watchdog found that younger Australians aged 24 - 32 reported most of the digital currency related scams, which targeted people already interested in investing and digital currency.

However, seniors and their superannuation savings have also been targeted by scammers.

The scammers favoured platforms such as Facebook and Instagram with 'get rich quick' cryptocurrency investment scams, communicating with victims on social networks including Discord and Telegram and often used fake celebrity endorsements such as mining billionaire Andrew Forrest.

The Report highlights that the preferred form of payment for scammers remains bank transfers and payments, at $70M more than triple the next form of payment: Bitcoin. The Report oddly claims that digital currency is not traceable, when it is one of the most traceable forms of payments. What is difficult is identifying the owners of wallets used in scams given their global nature.

The Report has been supported by data from Scamwatch, other government agencies and the big four banks (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac).

The ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Richard said:

This year we have included data from the big four banks which gives a more complete picture of how much people are losing to scams.

ASIC has recently reported on digital currency scams where investors are asked to sign up to cryptocurrency trading accounts which display fake data to dupe investors into thinking they are making profits and eventually show 'trading losses', even though no actual trading is taking place. When the victims are asked to withdraw their funds, the scammers either cease all contact or demand further payment before funds can be released (and those additional sums are of course never returned).

Despite ACCC making the same mistake as they did last year by stating that "The government or legitimate businesses will never ask for payment via gift cards or cryptocurrencies", hundreds of legitimate business across Australia accept cryptocurrency for payment for goods and services in accordance with the law, including Piper Alderman.

As recommended by ACCC, you should protect yourself against seeking to invest in anything that is too good to be true.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, please contact your bank and the platform involved. If you need assistance with legal avenues to recover your money, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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