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NSW residents hit hardest by online scammers during prolonged COVID-19 lockdown | #bumble | #tinder | #pof | #onlinedating | romancescams | #scams


Being in an extended COVID-19 lockdown is making NSW residents more likely to fall victim to an online scam, new data has shown.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that, just in July 2021, Australians lost a combined $27.1 million to scams.

Of those, NSW residents were the most financially impacted accounting for 37 per cent of the total amount lost.

NSW residents were the most financially impacted from scams, accounting for 37 per cent of the total amount lost in July 2021. (PA/AAP)

Experts believe that stay-at-home orders force more Australians online than ever before, particularly those who have little experience with identifying fake or misleading emails and messages.

Crispin Kerr, ANZ area vice-president at Proofpoint, said scammers are deliberately taking advantage of people when they know there is a high degree of stress in the community.

“Scammers are evidently capitalising on the ongoing lockdown forced by the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has left many in difficult financial situations,” Mr Kerr said.

“Scammers are tapping into feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to successfully steal money from hard working Australians and sadly, this kind of social engineering is proving to be very effective.”

An example of an Australia Post lookalike email scam being circulated currently. (Supplied)

Unusually, Mr Kerr said the data was revealing that the average age of a scam victim was falling.

“The latest figures from the ACCC show it is not only older Australians who are susceptible to scams, but also younger Australians too. Australians aged 18 to 35 were the hardest hit financially by job and employment scams, accounting for 80 per cent of the total money lost,” Mr Kerr said.

“In addition, threats to life and identity theft scams also had a significant financial impact Australians aged under 35.

“Remote access or technical support scams, false billing, and phishing scams were more damaging for Australians aged over 65.”

Proofpoint ANZ area vice-president Crispin Kerr explains that criminals are taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. (Supplied)

Investment scams were the most financially damaging, fleecing victims $13.4 million from just 700 reports in July 2021. They were followed by dating and romance scams ($4.8 million), false billing scams ($2.3 million) and threats to a person’s life or threats of arrest ($1.8 million).

Mr Kerr said the advanced techniques used by scammers and the number of Australians online could see a record-breaking amount lost to cyber criminals in 2021.

“At the current rate, Australia is well on track to surpass the record amount lost to scammers in 2020, and we are only just over halfway through the year,” Mr Kerr said.

“Although in July we saw a slightly lower amount of money lost than in June, it still represents an increase of more than 120 per cent compared to the same time last year and is still significant at more than $27 million.

“July also saw a 11 per cent increase in the number of scams reported to the ACCC with more than 26,700 reports, the highest number of scams in ten months.”

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