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Australians lost more money than ever to online scams in 2020 COVID-19 restrictions forced many to spend more time online.

Scamwatch from the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) reports that Australians lost $ 176.1 million to scams last year, 23.1 percent more than in 2019.

Aware of the large number of workers forced to work from home through online chat groups, the number of scams also increased: more than 216,000 were reported in 2020, 28.8% more than in 2019.

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Australians lost more to scams in December 2020 than in any other month. (Supplied)

Australians were most vulnerable during annual online sales around the Christmas holidays.

Despite being a few months after the worst of the pandemic, more money was lost in December than in any other month in 2020 with a combined loss of $ 22.4 million reported.

Of these scams, the most damaging were those featuring bogus investment schemes, followed by dating and romance scams and then third-place fake invoice scams.


The most successful scams were almost always delivered through phone calls and emails, and phone calls proved the most effective for cybercriminals.

Crispin Kerr, ANZ vice president of cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, said criminals were constantly looking for low-effort, high-performance solutions to scam people.

“After the consistently high level of fraudulent activity that we have witnessed month-to-month throughout 2020, these annual statistics paint the true picture of the unfortunate growth that we have seen,” said Kerr.

“The huge increase in phishing scams, up 75 percent from 2019, is perhaps the most concerning statistic of all in terms of volume.

“However, as a tactic used by scammers, it is not surprising to see that phishing has become so popular again. It has a low barrier to entry for cybercriminals with a high value return.”


Kerr said that many criminals adapted their scams around COVID-19 talking points in an effort to mislead users who might have been waiting for communication from the government.

“Phishing emails are very easy to create, require little technical knowledge and, most importantly, depend solely on a user clicking to be successful,” advised Kerr.

“Unfortunately, threat actors have been actively using social engineering to convince people to click a link or open attachments, playing on people’s fears related to COVID-19, all year long.”

Proofpoint ANZ Area Vice President Crispin Kerr explained that the barrier to entry for some cybercriminals was quite low. (Supplied)

His advice to users who wanted to avoid falling victim to these scammers was the tried and true method of not receiving weird emails and calls to the letter.

“As we enter 2021, with promising news about the launch of vaccines, we advise people to remain vigilant for these types of phishing attacks, as scammers will closely follow the news cycle to tailor their tactics and lures to issues of Today, “Kerr said.

“People should never click links, open attachments, or divulge confidential / financial information in response to unsolicited communications.”

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