Scams targeting Indigenous peoples were at the highest level ever recorded according to the ACCC’s annual Targeting Scams report.

In 2016, the ACCC received 1499 reports about scam activity from Indigenous peoples, up 87 per cent on 2015. Losses from these scams totalled nearly $1.5 million.

“The ACCC’s Targeting Scams report shows that scam activity in Australia was at record levels in 2016, and unfortunately Indigenous peoples are being targeted at an alarming rate. The average loss to scams increased more than $1000 from $7142 in 2015 to $8174 in 2016,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Scammers were most likely to target Indigenous peoples with advance fee fraud scams. These scams come in a number of guises and scammers will try to get their victims to pay an up-front fee to receive a large payment such as from the government or a lottery provider.

“One common type of advance fee fraud scam is where a scammer pretends to be from a government department like the Tax Office or Centrelink. The scammers will claim their victims are entitled to a rebate for overpaid taxes or for a pension and get their victim to pay an up-front fee to release the money. That rebate doesn’t exist and the fake fee is going straight into a scammer’s pocket,” Ms Rickard said.

Scammers typically contacted Indigenous peoples via email, the phone, online and via social media. Indigenous women were more likely to lose money to a scammer compared to men.

Dating and romance scams ($852,182 in losses) and inheritance scams ($320,400 in losses) cost Indigenous peoples the most money in 2016. These reports included two large individual losses in the dating and romance ($800,000) and inheritance ($300,000) categories.

“This Fraud Week we want to help Australians learn how to ‘Spot social media scams’, said Ms Rickard. 

“Indigenous peoples lost $30,000 to scams that originated on social media in 2016. Dating and romance and fake online store scammers in particular use social media platforms like Facebook to con their victims,” Ms Rickard said.

Ms Rickard said the ACCC was conducting outreach programs in Indigenous communities to talk about scams and other fair trading issues.

“We’ve also had great success setting up the ‘Your Rights Mob' Facebook page to engage directly with Indigenous peoples about issues including scams, and also this year released additional educational material about identifying and avoiding scammers,” Ms Rickard said.

“Given the increasingly sophisticated tactics and sheer volume of scam activity, it’s more important than ever that we can educate and empower Indigenous peoples to avoid scams wherever possible.”

For more about scams follow @Scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.