Scammers tricked Australians over USD 160 million in 2015

Canberra: A rise in the sophistication of scammers trapping victims into bogus investment schemes tricked Australians to lose over $160 million to scams in 2015.

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For the first time, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has collated its scam data with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) to give a clearer picture of just how much Australians are being ripped off, ABC Australia reported on Monday.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the combined data showed investment scams caused $29 million in losses, with $4 million lost by victims over the age of 55.

"Investment scams come in many different guises including business ventures, superannuation schemes, managed funds and the sale or purchase of shares or property," she told the ABC.

"One of the reasons is Australia has been in a low interest rate environment for quite some period now, and retirees or those approaching retirement are really concerned about how they can grow their retirement fund, so we think that may be making them more vulnerable to scams."

Dating and romance scams are still causing big headaches for victims and authorities, with $40 million lost last year.

Scammers using dating sites to attract their victims are often referred to as "catfish".

The ACCC said dating and romance scams, combined with investment scams, accounted for half of the money lost by people in the over-55 age group.

"Forty percent of the scam losses last year were to people over the age of 55," Rickard said.

Most of the dating and romance scams are being run out of Nigeria and Malaysia, while it is believed most investment scams are being run from Asia.

Forty percent of victims were contacted by scammers over the phone, while 27 percent were contacted via email.

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