Nina Kazmierczak- Partner and Principal Adviser
Sovereign Wealth Partners
Last week’s Budget allocated $58 million in funding to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to complete the setup of the National Anti-Scam centre over the next two years. This is part of an $86million national effort to address scam prevention. It doesn’t seem like a lot to prevent an alarmingly growing national (and global) problem.
In 2021-22, two thirds of Australians aged 15 years and over were exposed to a scam according to figures released by the ABS earlier this year. William Milne, ABS head of crime and justice statistics, said “the results of The Personal Fraud Survey showed that 65% of people received a scam offer or request in 2021-22, up from 55% in the previous year.” People were most exposed to a scam over the phone (48%) or by text message (47%), with exposure via text message doubling from 23% in 2020-21 to 47% in 2021-22. For calendar year 2022, more than $3.1 billion was lost to scams— an 80% increase from 2021 — according to a report from the ACCC, targeting scams. Furthermore, the ACCC estimates that at least 30% of victims do not report scams, so the true losses are likely to be far higher. As of yesterday, scamwatch.gov.au/scam-statistics suggests that to date the amount lost to April 2023 is $200M.
Scammers and scams have becoming increasingly sophisticated, lending itself to the need for a united front to tackle an increasing problem. ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe states “we have seen alarming new tactics emerge which make scams incredibly difficult to detect. This includes everything from impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organisations to scam texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages”. With the degree of sophistication only getting better, no one person or business is immune. So, here are some key things to ALWAYS remember:
- Always be suspicious.
- Don’t trust unexpected contact. Even when you are contacted by an institution asking to confirm your ID (but they called you?!) always grab a reference number and call the institution back through an official contact centre.
- Do your research.
- Resist demands to act quickly
- Keep your computer virus detection software up to date
- Never open attachments or click on links in emails or texts
- Use different passwords or a password protector app to manage your passwords.
- Reserve the right to be impolite!.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is a wonderful resource not many are aware of. The ACSC leads the Australian Government’s efforts to improve cyber security, and to help make Australia the most secure place to connect online. They monitor cyber threats across the globe 24/7, and alert Australians early on what to do. It’s a great resource and information centre on how to protect yourself and your business online. When there is a cyber security incident, they provide clear and timely advice to individuals, businesses, and critical infrastructure operators. From password creation and password apps to steps to remember to avoid being scammed; it’s a resource many individuals only learn about all too late.
It’s a serious issue- for both businesses and individuals alike, and one not to be taken lightly. But to add a little humour on the topic and to wrap things up, this is by far one of my favourite TED talks on replying to a scammer.