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Australian crypto scams increased by over 162% with nearly $150M lost

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Australians lost $148.3 million (AUD$221.3 million) from investment scams where cryptocurrency was used as the payment method in 2022 — a 162.4% increase from 2021.

According to an April 17 scam activity report from the country’s consumer regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), 3,910 crypto scam incident reports were made in total and the average Australian victim was stripped of $37,900 (AUD$56,600).

The $148.3 million figure represents 7.1% of the total $2.08 billion (AUD$3.1 billion) worth of scams reported in Australia for 2022.

Bank transfers remained the largest scam payment method with nearly 13,100 reports totaling $141 million — $7.3 million less than crypto payments.

Bank transfer payment scams averaged out at around $10,700 (AUD$16,000) per incident, meaning that crypto scammers were able to swindle 250% more value from each victim.

Data showed that crypto scammers mostly contacted victims through social media and networking apps, while bank payment scammers more often reached out via phone and email.

In an April 17 statement, ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe partially attributed the spike in scams to new technologies making it easier to “lure and deceive victims” with increasingly “sophisticated” tactics:

“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 organizations to scam texts that appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages.”

“This means now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam,” she added.

While the figures are “alarming,” Lowe emphasized that the “true cost” of the damage still isn’t priced in:

“Australians lost more money to scams than ever before in 2022, but the true cost of scams is much more than a dollar figure as they also cause emotional distress to victims, their families and businesses.”

Lowe explained that the Australian government, law enforcement and the private sector need to strengthen ties to “combat” the scams more effectively and bring the numbers down.

Related: Aussies revealed as prime targets of Israel crypto scam syndicate

According to data from the ACCC’s scam database Scamwatch, the average investment scam victim in Australia is a 65-year-old man that will be contacted on social media or respond to a fraudulent advertisement.

They will likely be tied up in the swindle for “several months” before realizing they’ve been scammed.

Imposter bond offers, initial public offerings (IPO), relationship or pig butchering schemes and money recovery services are among the most common investment scams reported.

The ACCC said in its report that scam losses “are far higher” than reported as around 30% of scam victims do not report it to anyone while only 13% of victims report the incident to Scamwatch.

ACCC’s Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) and other agencies compiled data for the report.

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