Investment, romance and hacking scams have emerged as the weapons of choice for fraudsters, who scammed West Australians out of almost $14 million last year, according to WA ScamNet.
- Scammers are becoming increasingly clever and professional
- More people over 65 were scammed but those aged 24–35 lost the most money
- Payment redirection scams in particular are on the rise
The 2019 figures represented a big jump on the previous year, with numbers up by 10 per cent from 2018.
The largest number of reports came from people aged 65 and over, but the 25–34 age group reported the largest losses, due to seven people who were collectively scammed out of $800,000.
Consumer Protection commissioner Lanie Chopping said scammers were becoming increasingly clever and professional.
“Impacts on victims can be crippling, both financially and emotionally,” she said.
Deportation threats and fake emergencies
The data showed a 14-fold increase in the number of people being scammed by fraudsters pretending to be government officials, debt collectors and companies.
“These ruthless scammers pretend to be in positions of authority and create a sense of urgency, pressuring the recipient of their call to act impulsively,” Ms Chopping said.
“They threaten their victims with deportation, arrest and fake emergencies, or pose as a love interest to then blackmail their victims with threats of releasing secretly recorded intimate videos to friends, family or work colleagues.”
Ms Chopping advised the public to be vigilant online, with most scams now originating on the internet.
Payment redirection scams were also on the rise, with these so-called “man in the middle” fraudsters raking in $1.5 million.
The Yangebup Progress Association was hit by this type of scam last year while it was planning its Carols by Candlelight event.
Ms Chopping said this type of scam saw legitimate payments diverted to scammers either as a result of fake invoices or bogus emails being sent requesting a change of bank account.
Consumer Protection offered the following advice to the public to avoid being scammed:
- Don’t let anyone pressure you into making financial decisions straight away
- Don’t respond to financial advice from strangers
- Take a moment to think about how an organisation is asking you to make a payment
- Always get a second opinion