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  • K Kim and S Pettigrove

ScamWatch report shows 10% fall in scams in the past year in Australia

Updated: May 13

The second annual report on scams by the National Anti-Scam Centre revealed that in 2023, Australians lodged over 601,000 scam reports, seeing an increase of 18.5% from 2022. Despite the volume of reports increasing, overall financial loss decreased by an impressive 13%, reflecting a positive trend, according to data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange, IDCARE and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). 

p4, Report of the National Anti-Scam Centre on scams activity 2023 (April 2024)

Bank transfers and cryptocurrency remained the most prominent payment methods employed by scammers, with bank transfers reported nearly four times higher than cryptocurrency.

The current report detailed that cryptocurrency loss amounted to USD$171.1M in 2023. Similar trends were identified in the 2022 report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which noted that USD$221.3M (or USD$160.6M excluding significant loss outliers) were lost via cryptocurrency. It's unclear how much of this drop is attributed to "friction" introduced by debanking and banks restricting transfers to crypto exchanges.

However, the reports do not take into account unreported losses.

The National Anti-Scam Centre was established in July 2023 under the ACCC with 3 key functions, namely collaboration (technology and intelligence sharing), disruption of scam activities and raising awareness for public protection (including more efficient reporting and support services for victims). With the National Anti-Scam Centre developing technology to foster intelligence sharing as a matter of priority, the report estimates that more government bodies and businesses will be exchanging data through the Centre by the second half of 2024. Separately, the Australian government is continuing its efforts to develop a mandatory Scams Code Framework, with a consultation in late 2023.

The recent report optimistically affirms that a "coordinated scams prevention, detention and response initiatives" involving

the concerted efforts of government..., the private sector, law enforcement, and community organisations

will be able to combat the flow of funds to scammers and promote public protection. The writers consider that ASIC's impressive assault on the top of the scam funnel, shutting down 3,500 scam websites, should be credited for a significant drop in the number of scams, as it is harder for scammers to convince victims they are a legitimate business (or impersonate another business) if they don't have website collateral to back it up, and online trading or forex or investment scams often rely on websites which show amazing returns, none of which are ever able to be withdrawn.

Scams will never be defeated, but the assault on the top of the funnel, hopefully preventing many scams from happening, should continue to show results into the future if sustained, saving many innocent Australian's from becoming victims in the first place.

Written by Steven Pettigrove, Michael Bacina and Kelly Kim


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