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Rise in scammers attacking one group

Man wearing hoody sweater with phone in hands. Crime and hacking concept
One group of Australians has become the target of social media scammers.

The amount of money lost by unsuspecting Australians to social media scams has tripled in just a few years, with elderly residents suffering the most nationwide.

Scamwatch, a government watchdog, revealed on Tuesday Australians had lost some $95 million to social media scams in 2023, a 249 per cent increase from 2020.

People aged 65 and over experienced the highest losses of any group, accounting for almost a third of all social media scam losses during October-December 2023.

That stark figure represented a whopping 57 per cent increase from the previous quarter, with older Australians also at risk from investment and romance scams.

“Over 16,000 people who reported losing money (in 2023) said it started on a social media platform or an online forum with an ad, a post, or a message,” Scamwatch said.

“Many people reported placing an order, usually after seeing an ad, but never received their goods. Some described advertisements that impersonated real, online retailers.”

Identity theft
Over 65s suffered the greatest loses to social media scams in late-2023. Picture: iStock

“Scammers take advantage of their anonymity, and the relative low cost in reaching a wider audience through fake advertisements and other contact, on social media.”

In total, Australians lost $477 million to scams in 2023, despite losses falling between October-December in a range of areas, including crypto and bank scams.

During those three months, Australians lost some $82 million to scams, down 26 per cent from the previous quarter and 43 per cent from the same time last year.

Compared with the same period in 2022, loses to cryptocurrency scams fell by 74 per cent in 2023, while bank transfer and investment scam loses fell by about a third.

The average reported loss to scams during October-December 2023 was $1224, more than half of which came from high-cost investment scams.

Phishing scams, a type of online scam usually involving emails, meanwhile represented the largest share of reported scams which topped 67,000 in the late-2023.