Online shopping and trading scams hit record WA victims in 2022

  • Record scam losses of $16 million in 2022 impact record number of victims
  • Almost half of all WA scam victims last year fell for online shopping or trading scams
  • People chasing high investment returns or looking for love lost the most money
  • Western Australians urged to protect themselves from increasingly sophisticated scams

Scam losses and the number of reports and victims in Western Australia broke records in 2022, with 1,203 people losing a combined $15,988,513 - a seven per cent increase on 2021's record losses.

Releasing Consumer Protection's latest WA ScamNet Year in Review report, Commerce Minister Sue Ellery urged Western Australians to exercise caution to protect themselves from increasingly sophisticated scams, particularly when interacting with others online.

The report reveals online shopping and buying/selling classified scams claimed the most victims over the past year, while investment and romance scams recorded the highest financial losses.

A total of 274 online shoppers lost $876,774 and 270 buyers and sellers on classified sites lost $564,680.

Investment scams, mainly involving crypto currencies, were to blame for $6,980,254 in losses, while $2,871,468 was lost to dating/romance scams, with one individual loss of $800,000 reported in May 2022.

One of the most disturbing scams of the year involved people receiving texts from criminals masquerading as their children needing urgent funds. The 'Hi Mum/Dad' scam tricked 59 WA victims into paying a total of $265,353.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has reported that annual scam losses nationally are at least $2 billion and could be as high as $4 billion. Alarmingly, a survey has indicated that only about 13 per cent of scam losses are reported to authorities, indicating that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website where scam reports can also be lodged. Enquiries can be made by emailing [email protected] or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

As stated by Commerce Minister Sue Ellery:

"Scammers will often create a sense of urgency to prevent victims from taking time to verify that the contact is genuine or discussing it with others.

"They also try to pull on people's heart strings, with the new 'Hi Mum/Hi Dad' scam attempting to exploit a parent's desire to help their children, and romance scammers preying on those who are simply looking for love.

"Don't allow yourself to be rushed into making decisions or taking action as impulsive decisions could end up costing you dearly.

"We want Western Australians to exercise caution and 'practise the pause', which involves stopping to think about whether the person or organisation you are communicating with is legitimate before clicking on a link or attachment in an email, responding to phone calls or texts with personal information, or transferring any hard-earned money.

"Education and awareness are crucial to put these fraudsters out of business and ensure their criminal activities are not rewarded, so I urge Western Australians to become scam smart, spread the word about how to identify and avoid scams, and contact Consumer Protection if in need of advice."

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