New national centre to crack down on scammers

·2-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

A new multi-million dollar anti-scam centre will be the latest tool in the government's arsenal to crack down on fraud.

More than $86 million was set aside in the recent federal budget to create a National Anti-Scams Centre, which will be up and running by July.

The centre will be run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and will be a partnership with government agencies, banks, telecommunications companies and online platforms to stop scams from taking place.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said information sharing between partners would be critical in an effort to stop scams before money is taken from customers.

"We're going in there, we'll be doing disruption activity to ensure (the scammers') job of stealing money from Australians is going to be harder and harder and harder," he told ABC TV on Monday.

"If we get reports of a scam that's out in the field targeting most small businesses ...we want to be able to notify banks, we want to be able to notify small business organisations and we want to be able to notify law enforcement as quickly as possible."

It's estimated more than $3 billion was lost to scammers in Australia in 2022, five times the amount that was lost during 2020.

Figures have shown the average loss from a scam is about $20,000.

Mr Jones said the new centre would share information across government departments to interrupt scams in real time, as well as play a role in raising consumer awareness of scams that are taking place.

"As soon as money leaves a person's bank account, it's almost too late, so this is all about ensuring that we can knock the scams on the head before they get out there in the field," he told reporters in Canberra.

"The whole objective is about reducing scam losses. I anticipate that as a result of this initiative, reporting is going to go up."

Chief executive of Consumer Action Law Centre Stephanie Tonkin welcomed news of the funding for the anti-scam centre.

However, she said more needed to be done to help people who have already lost money to scammers.

"It will only deliver meaningful outcomes if it is backed up by new laws that mandate industry action on scam prevention and impose liability for losses when they fail," she said.

"What we need now is for banks to reimburse scams victims - except in circumstances of gross negligence - and this needs to be made mandatory by the federal government."