The biggest online scams of the year and how to avoid them

Person look at computers and being careful of online scams

In 2021 alone, Australians have lost over $236 million to scams, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says.  

Scams come in all shapes, sizes and target anyone, and sometimes they can be difficult to spot until it’s too late.

A good example was the SQUID crypto scam, where a crypto currency based on the hit Netflix show, The Squid Game, stole $3.3 million USD in a day before disappearing into the abyss. 

Crypto scams aren’t the only thing that have caused people to lose millions of dollars. Like mentioned before scams come in any shape and form.

“Scams are becoming more and more sophisticated, using technology to make their scams even harder to detect,” says the ACCC’s deputy chair, Delia Rickard.

Biggest scams in Australia

Reports to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website have gone up 50% compared to last year, with more than 242,000 made so far. About 25% of Australians believe that the internet is now more dangerous than pre-pandemic, according to Avast’s cyber mindfulness report. Avast is a cybersecurity software company from the Czech Republic.

Online shopping scams

Since the start of the pandemic, more Aussies have begun to do their shopping exclusively online. This has come with risks as the ACCC says consumers have lost more than $12.9 million to online shopping scams, as of October 2021. Usually the reports claim that the victim never received the item that was paid for.

“When shopping online, just remember to check the source, don’t click on links if you are not sure of the destination and don’t save your payment information,” says Avast’s cybersecurity expert, Stephen Ko.

Concert ticket scams

Many scammers use pop culture events as a lure to steal people’s money and personal information. This year, cybersecurity company Proofpoint found several scammers posing as ticket sellers to popular upcoming concerts like The Weekend and the 2022 Justin Bieber world tour. However, rather than getting the victim to click on a link to claim their tickets, scammers tricked people into calling them and convinced the callers into giving up their banking details.

Job and employment scams

When many people found themselves out of work during the global pandemic, there was a sudden rise in job and employment scams. The scammer typically tricks the victim into handing over a payment in exchange for a guaranteed way to make fast money.

Texting scams

Aussies lost over $500,000 to texting scams, says the ACCC. Some common scams have been text messages claiming that the recipient has won a gift card or money and asks that they click a link.

“Text and emails are the two most reported delivery channels for ransom and malware scams, so we encourage Australians to refrain from clicking on any links in texts or emails from unrecognised senders,” says Proofpoint vice-president Crispin Kerr.

Crypto Investment scams

Fake crypto currencies are on the rise. Australian cryptocurrency exchange Cointree said that the ASIC has reported a rapid increase in people filing the money lost in crypto scams. With so many new cryptocurrencies entering the market, it can be difficult to know which are actually scams.

How to keep yourself safe from scams?

Spotting scams can be easy if you know what to look for.

  • For starters if you are being offered an investment opportunity make sure to check for an Australian Financial Services licence. If the investment doesn’t have one it is a warning sign of a possible scam.
  • If an email looks fishy or it is claiming that you bought something that you clearly didn't, do not click on any links. If you are still unsure if it is 100% legit, then hover over the sender’s name to check if the email isn’t odd looking.
  • Just as you shouldn’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognise, do not open links from texts from strangers.
  • When shopping online, sometimes a website may seem legitimate, but there may be a chance it is a fake with no real products or services for sale. To protect your banking details, don’t save your payment info on any site. Also think about using a third-party payment service like PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay to give your credit card and extra layer of protection.

Scammers are getting smarter. But that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to their tricks. If you want to learn how to avoid scams during the busy holiday season check out our shopping guide. Or read more on the ways to keep your online data safe.