Scam bill to double in 12 months: Labor

Australians are likely to lose $4 billion to scammers this year, almost double the money lost last year, the federal government warns.

Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones on Monday said Labor will give the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission $10 million to set up a new National Anti-Scam Centre.

It has also doubled funding for identity recovery services and has legislation before parliament to tighten up privacy laws and increase penalties for data breaches.

It will also introduce tough new industry codes on telcos, finance and social media platforms to improve safety and reduce economic crime.

Speaking at the start of Scams Awareness Week, Mr Jones said he was disturbed by the $4 billion figure but not surprised.

"It's a tragedy at any point in time, but when Australians are struggling with cost-of-living increases, to have their life savings ripped away from them is just unbearable," he told Seven Network.

"That's money that should be in the small businesses or households, not flowing to these criminals and scumbags ripping Australians off."

With scams and data breaches top of mind in the wake of the Optus data breach and a string of other high-profile hacks, Australian Banking Association head Anna Bligh said banks were sinking millions each year into staff and technology to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals.

She welcomed the government's commitment to tackle the issue, noting there had been an absence of leadership until now.

"To have this now front and centre, this gives us an opportunity not just for banks, but all of corporate Australia, to start working together in a way that hasn't really been possible," she told reporters in Canberra.

Scams cost consumers, businesses, and the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each year and cause serious emotional harm to victims and their families.

In 2021, the combined losses reported to Scamwatch, which is run by the ACCC, as well as ReportCyber, 12 financial organisations and other government agencies totalled $1.8 billion.

This year, losses reported to ScamWatch are already much higher and could hit $4 billion by the end of the year.

Plus, losses are actually likely to be much higher than ACCC's estimates as around one third of scam victims don't report to anyone.

"We know scammers are relentlessly targeting Australians," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said on Monday.

"While there is a great deal of work underway to disrupt scammers, our best defence against these types of scams is education."

One of the biggest scams includes phishing, where a scammer tries to con someone into revealing their identity and other personal information including banking details.

According to comparison website Finder, Australians are also increasingly falling victim to fake text and phone calls.

Its survey of 1058 Australians found 75 per cent had received a fraudulent text message or phone call this year.

But only 21 per cent reported the scam while four per cent didn't realise until later it was a hoax.

Mr Jones said reforms to privacy laws would bolster resilience to scams and cyber crime.

He was concerned about unnecessary information collection and how data was being stored.

"Why do I have to give out my driver's license and personal details to get into a pub? And when I do that, how's that information being stored?" he asked.