The Australian Consumer and Competition Commissioner has projected scam losses to exceed $532 million by the end of the year, surpassing half a billion dollars for the first time.
Last year, over $489 million was lost to scammers, with ATO impersonation scams contributing to over $2.8 million in losses.
ATO impersonation scams reported in 2018 totalled 114,625, with over 21,000 potentially compromised personal identities.
The warning comes as the ACCC launches National Scams Awareness Week, with over 100 campaign partners from government and industry, including the ATO, urging taxpayers to test their scams knowledge and refresh their scam protection and detection skills.
“Many people are confident they would never fall for a scam, but often it’s this sense of confidence that scammers target,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“People need to update their idea of what a scam is so that we are less vulnerable. Scammers are professional businesses dedicated to ripping us off. They have call centres with convincing scripts, staff training programs and corporate performance indicators their ‘employees’ need to meet.”
Investment scams are one of the most sophisticated and convincing scams and continue to have the highest losses. Nearly half of all investment scams reported this year resulted in a financial loss.
These scams are prominent on social media, with “Facebook lottery” scams, the “Loom” pyramid scheme and cryptocurrency scams particularly common.
Cryptocurrency investment scams have seen record losses, with reports to the ACCC alone of $14.76 million between January and July 2019. Many use social media platforms, fake celebrity endorsements or fake online trading platforms that are made to look legitimate.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre had also previously warned of an increase in scams related to myGov.
The particular scam might be exacerbated this year due to the expected 4 million taxpayers the ATO expects to sign up to myGov this tax time, adding to the current 3.7 million myGov users.
The huge influx of sign-ups comes as businesses transit over to the Single Touch Payroll regime, making end-of-year payment summaries redundant.
Instead, payment summary information will now be called an “income statement” and can only be accessed through a taxpayer’s myGov account or through their tax agent.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.