Scammers stole over $66 million last year from Indigenous Australians, people who identified as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), and people with disability, according to new data from the ACCC’s annual Targeting Scams report.
“Scammers generally cast their nets very wide, but some specifically target groups such as Indigenous Australians and CALD communities,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Unfortunately, we saw some vulnerable members of the community lose significantly more money to scams last year.”
In 2021, Scamwatch received 4,958 reports from Indigenous Australians, with $4.8 million in losses. This represents a 43 per cent increase in reports and 142 per cent increase in losses since 2020.
Younger Indigenous Australians lost more money than older Indigenous Australians, which is a reverse of the overall trend of financial losses to scams increasing with age. The most financially damaging scams for Indigenous communities were investment scams, followed by phishing scams and romance scams.
The report shows that scams impacting CALD communities made up five per cent of all reports to Scamwatch, and almost 13 per cent of the total losses. Members of CALD communities reported $42 million in losses, which is an 88 per cent increase compared to 2020.
The most financially damaging scams for CALD communities were investment scams, followed by romance scams and scams involving threats to life, arrest or other.
Members of CALD communities who reported a financial loss to Scamwatch on average lost $1,200, compared to an average loss of $845 for all people.
The main financial losses were incurred through investment scams in the form of ponzi scams and pyramid scheme apps such as Hope Business and Wonderful World. These scams impacted younger people in CALD communities more than any other group.
People from CALD communities were also over-represented in financial losses due to scams involving threats to life, arrest and other, and identity theft.
“The Australian Government will never threaten you with immediate arrest. Always stop to consider who you might be dealing with, and if you’re not sure if the call is legitimate, hang up and call the organisation directly using contact details you independently source,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you think scammers might have gained access to your personal information, contact your bank immediately.”
People who identified as having a disability made 15,387 reports to Scamwatch last year and lost more than $19.6 million to scams. This is a 104 per cent increase in reports and 102 per cent increase in financial losses compared to 2020.
“There was record amounts of scam disruption last year across the public and private sectors, but scammers are unscrupulous and clearly more needs to be done,” Ms Rickard said.
“As vulnerable consumers can be difficult to reach through traditional channels, we also encourage the wider community to assist in sharing warnings about scams.”
The ACCC regularly engages in Indigenous outreach programs and shares scam warnings on the Your Rights Mob Facebook page.
The ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams is available in ten languages to help the community understand and avoid scams.
The ACCC-run Scamwatch aims to raise awareness about how to recognise, avoid and report scams. It also shares intelligence and works with government, law enforcement and the private sector to disrupt and prevent scams.
Reference to combined reports or losses include data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, other government agencies, and banks and financial institutions. Adjustments were made to avoid counting reports or losses multiple times.
The report otherwise uses Scamwatch data, which is based on phone and web reports made to Scamwatch between 1 January and 31 December 2021.