Each year the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) – Consumer Protection Division (Consumer Protection), which operates WA ScamNet, receives a large number of enquiries concerning scam related problems.
Many of these enquiries are lower-level concerns where consumers wish to advise Consumer Protection of an email, phone call or some form of interaction they have had with a potential scam. These types of enquiries are dealt with by Consumer Protection’s Contact Centre.
Other more detailed enquiries are managed by Consumer Protection’s WA ScamNet team; these enquiries tend to be more detailed in nature often including situations where consumers have fallen victim to a scam.
The reports below detail a review of the enquiries Consumer Protection recieves over the calendar year.
2020 report - Five-fold increase in online shopping scam losses in WA in 2020
An increase in online shopping activity during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a huge 500 per cent increase in losses to scams for that category in 2020 statistics compiled by WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection.
In 2020, 257 online shoppers in WA reported total losses of $653,745, compared to 129 victims losing $127,304 in 2019.
There was also a doubling of losses and the number of scam victims in the ‘classifieds’ category with 241 consumers who were looking for second-hand goods losing a total of $544,172, compared to 126 victims losing $191,792 in 2019.
Overall, there were more scam victims but less money lost in 2020 with 952 victims losing $11.8 million. In 2019, there were 705 victims reporting $13.6 million in losses. As in most years, investment ($5.38 million) and romance ($2.17 million) scams topped the list of categories.
2019 report - Scammers fleece $13.6 million from WA victims in 2019
In 2019 Consumer Protection’s Contact Centre received 4,043 calls regarding scam related matters, 25% fewer than in 2018. The top three scams reported to the Contact Centre were the National Broadband Network scam (29% increase from 2018), followed by Australian Tax Office scams (39% decrease from 2018) and accident insurance scams (42% decrease from 2018).
WA ScamNet received 2,461 contacts from Western Australians regarding losses incurred or concerns with scams in 2019, an increase of 40% from 2018.
Although there was an 8% decrease in the number of contacts reporting monetary losses, the combined losses suffered increased to $13.6 million, compared to the $10.7 million reported in 2018.
Victims reported $6 million lost to investment scams, $3.8 million to dating and romance scams and $1.1 million to hacking, among others.
2018 report - WA victims lose almost $11 million to scams in 2018
In 2018 Consumer Protection’s Contact Centre received 5,366 calls and around 17,000 emails regarding scam related matters. False outstanding tax debts or refunds and accident insurance scams continued to be the top subjects callers enquired about in 2018, followed by the threat of the National Broadband Network being cut off if victims didn’t pay the scammer.
WA ScamNet received 1,176 contacts from Western Australians regarding losses incurred or concerns with scams in 2018, an increase of 27 per cent from 2017. There was a 42% increase in the number of contacts experiencing monetary losses of between less than $10 to1.5 million.
Victims suffered combined losses of $10.7 million, compared to $8 million in 2017.
The ATO scam changed in 2018 with a more aggressive scammer contacting the victim informing them that they need to contact a phone number in relation to an outstanding tax debt, or face imminent arrest and jail time.
Read the full 2018 WA Scam Review.
2017 report - Number of victims for Apple iTunes cards scam doubles
In 2017 Consumer Protection’s Contact Centre received over 6,500 calls and 25,000 emails regarding scam related matters. The top three subjects callers enquired about made up nearly one third of the total calls received; these were about: accident insurance; false outstanding tax debts or refunds; and scammers posing as Telstra.
WA ScamNet received 911 contacts from Western Australians regarding losses incurred or concerns with scams in 2017. Of those 911 contacts, 398 (43%) reported suffering losses; losses ranged from small amounts under $10 through to $1 million.
As can be seen in Figure 2 below, the number of WA ScamNet contacts received in 2017 increased by 9.8% from 2016. While the total number of people reporting losses increased (7%), the overall proportion of contacts experiencing loss reduced slightly from 45% to 44%.
There was an 11% decrease in loss amounts reported to Consumer Protection in 2017. Contacts noted combined losses of $8,061,000, a fall from the $9,037,000 reported in 2016.
Read the full 2017 Scam Review .
2016 report - WA victims lose $10 million to scams in 2016
The number of West Australians duped by scammers dropped by 17 per cent in 2016, with romance fraud still the most common type of scam despite a 34 per cent drop in victim numbers.
While most scam categories have seen a drop in both victims and losses, there are two categories that have seen huge increases in losses which is a cause for concern. Technology scams have seen a 17 per cent increase in victim numbers while the losses have almost tripled.
Scammers contact their victims usually by phone and pretend to be from a well-known telecommunications company such as Telstra, saying their computer has been hacked.
The other area of concern is the doubling of losses from investment scams to $2.6 million in 2016, even though there has been a slight drop in the number of victims in this category.
Read the full 2016 Scam Review report.
2015 Report - Cost of scams for WA victims halved in 2015
A total of 456 victims reported losing $9.8 million to scams in 2015, compared to 657 victims losing $16.8 million in 2014, a 42 per cent decrease in losses.
Despite the overall reduction in scam losses, other categories of scams went against the trend and increased in 2015, including:
- accommodation scams, where bogus online advertisements trick prospective tenants or holidaymakers to make payments to scammers instead of the real owners
- rebate and refund scams, as well as beneficiary and employment scams
- tax debt scams where scammers leave a disturbing recorded message or make phone calls threatening to take legal action if the consumer did not pay a bogus tax debt.
Read the full 2015 Scam Review report.