Gen Z falling victim to scams at alarming rate, finds ACCC

Niko Iliakis

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Young Australians may pride themselves on being online savvy, but a recent report by the ACCC suggests some of that confidence might be misplaced.

According to the competition watchdog, Aussies under 25 lost upwards of $5 million to scams last year, with reports from young Australians rising at a faster rate than older generations.

“Scammers don’t discriminate based on age and the wide-range of scams reported by this age group is concerning,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

In 2019, around 12,000 cases reported to ScamWatch came from those under the age of 25 - an increase of 11% from the previous year - with online shopping scams making up 14% of reports.

“Almost half of the losses to people under 25 occurred through bank transfer but you should also be wary of sellers asking for payment through unusual payment methods such as gift cards or bitcoin,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC also identified video games as a popular arena for scammers, with many young children sending money or gift card codes in exchange for in-game items that never arrive.

“We encourage parents and guardians to ensure children do not share personal or banking details online, and if they think a scammer has gained access to their personal information contact their financial institution as soon as possible."

RELATED: Aussies are losing an average of $12,000 to scams, says Westpac

This comes after news that scammers were taking advantage of Australians’ goodwill during the bushfire crisis and soliciting donations for fake causes and charities.

The growing number of cases led the ACCC to issue a statement urging Australians to verify the legitimacy of fundraisers before pledging any money.

In recent weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has given rise to similar cases around the world, with criminals exploiting people’s fears and sympathies to wring them of their cash.

Tactics have included setting up fraudulent websites, selling products purporting to be treatments, and directly requesting financial assistance via text, email and social media.

Which scams are Aussies falling for?

In 2019, the ACCC’s ScamWatch received 167,797 reports from across Australia, totalling more than $142 million in lost funds. 

While younger age groups have seen an uptick in reported cases over the past few years, victims of scams still overwhelmingly skew older, with Australians above the age of 65 more vulnerable than any other age group.

As for the kinds of scams Aussies were falling for, the most common were phishing (25,168 reported cases), extortion (13,375 reported cases), identity theft (11,373 reported cases), false billing (11,254 reported cases), and online shopping scams (9,953 reported cases).

While the frequency of these scams is certainly distressing, they were far from the most costly to Australians. Rather, it was investment and romance scams that accounted for the majority of lost funds.

In 2019, dating and romance scams saw unsuspecting Aussies lose more than $28 million, while a staggering $61 million was lost as a result of shady investment dealings.

With scammers employing ever more crafty ways to get their hands on Aussies’ money, it’s important to keep your wits about you online. If you’re after some security tips, our guide to staying safe when banking online is a good place to start. And if you're looking for a safe place to keep your money, browse what's on offer with our bank account comparison page.

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