Australians have lost a whopping $176 million to scams in 2020 – but there’s one con in particular that’s really costing them: investment scams.
Aussies reported more than 216,000 fraud cases in 2020 with around 11 per cent of those reports leading to financial losses totalling $176 million, according to new data from VPN provider Atlas VPN.
That’s a 123 per cent increase on 2019.
But interestingly, investment scams were the biggest bank drainers, with Aussies reportedly losing more than $66 million to this kind of scam.
"In general, the year 2020 was a rollercoaster ride. However, cybercriminals used this commotion as an opportunity to find new ways to scam panicking citizens,” chief operating officer of Atlas VPN, Rachel Welch, said.
The most common types of investment scams were Ponzi schemes, fake CD scams, bogus stock promotions and community-based financial scams.
“Consumers should be extremely cautious of companies that claim that their products can help stop the COVID-19 pandemic,” cybersecurity research and publisher at Atlas VPN, Edward G, said.
“Also, a red flag should go up if the offer involves microcap stocks. These claims are often untrue and are simply a scheme to lure out money from investors.
“Worst case scenario, you may not be able to sell your shares if the company is terminated because of false claims.”
The second-worst scam was dating and romance scams, with Aussies losing $37.22 million to this kind of scam. That’s an increase of nearly $10 million on 2019.
According to the report, fraudsters were using the pandemic as an excuse to ask for money “to get home” from people they were dating online.
“The scammer promises that when he comes back, he will send back all of the borrowed money. We all know how that one ends.”
How can I protect myself from scams?
No matter what, don’t give your personal or financial information to people you didn’t expect to get a phone call from.
“Government agencies or banks will not contact you via phone and ask you for your personal information,” Atlas VPN stated.
“If this does happen, hang up the phone, find the company’s genuine website and contact them yourself.”
Don’t click on links in emails that weren’t addressed to you personally, or that don’t come from a familiar email address.
These can be tough to spot, so again, it’s a good idea to go to the company’s official website and check any information there, or call the company directly.
If someone is pressuring to purchase a service or product immediately, alarm bells should be ringing in your head.
“Trustworthy businesses will give you time to think over your decision.
“Scammers have a limited amount of time to swindle money out of victims, as it is only a matter of time until the person decides to do a little digging to find out if the caller is who he says he is.”