Scam crackdown bearing fruit

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Reported scam losses are down more than 40 per cent after industry teamed with regulators and law enforcement to combat stings last year, as the consumer regulator pushes for more protections.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb revealed the latest drop – a 41.7 per cent or $25.2 million decrease on reported losses to Scamwatch in December — while committing to continue pursuing scammers over the next year.

“This represents the sixth straight month of declining losses in Scamwatch reports compared to the corresponding month in 2022,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said in an address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Sydney on Thursday.

The decrease in reported losses compared to a year earlier comes after the establishment of the National Anti Scam Centre by the Albanese government last year and its first “fusion cell” targeting investment scams.

Effectively a taskforce, the cell brings together banks, telcos and digital platforms to work with the corporate regulator against scams.

The cell has referred more than 800 websites for takedown and shares intelligence with industry and law enforcement.

Earlier this year, the National Anti Scam Centre was credited with alerting a consumer about an imposter bond scam, helping to stop them transferring $300,000 to scammers.

“All of this is positive, but the job is far from done and a whole of ecosystem legislative framework with mandatory, enforceable codes remains critical to ensure Australia becomes the world’s hardest target for scammers,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

An upcoming ACCC report due within months will reveal if total scam losses are subsiding, after losses jumped 80 per cent between 2021 and 2022 to $3.1 billion.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb revealed compliance enforcement priorities for the regulator this year will continue to include the digital economy with a focus on misleading or deceptive advertising in influencer marketing, online reviews, in-app purchases, and price comparison websites.

The ACCC will also take its first hard look at the video game sector, in particular the in-app purchases being pushed by developers and publishers.

“This industry has significant size and reach, particularly with younger consumers,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“Far too often we hear concerns about consumers incurring huge purchases because of in-app offerings that have inadequate safeguards, or in some cases, deliberately target and nudge or confuse consumers.”

Other new compliance and enforcement priorities for the ACCC include sustainability claims, supermarket dominance, competition in essential services, and misleading conduct in the energy and telecommunication sectors.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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