Scam warning as a record number of West Australians fall victim to swindlers in 2022

Scam warning as a record number of West Australians fall victim to swindlers in 2022

Western Australians are losing an increasing amount of money to scams, with a new record of almost $16 million in 2022.

Key points: Romance and cryptocurrency scams accounted for the bulk of losses Remote access and online shopping fraud were also on the rise The amount lost to scams in WA has almost doubled since 2017

The bulk of the losses were attributed to scams involving cryptocurrencies, accounting for nearly $7 million in stolen funds, while $2 million was lost to romance scams.

But there are many other types of scams, and they are becoming more elaborate.

Chris Litchfield said a person claiming to be from the National Broadband Network (NBN) drained almost $100,000 from his bank account, describing the amount as “an eye-popping amount of money”.

“[It happened] About a few months ago when I answered a phone call, purportedly from the NBN, asking if I was having any problems with my internet speed,” he said.

“As it happened, I was.

“They said, ‘look, it’s easy, just type in, that’s all you have to do’.”

Chris Litchfield was one of a record number of West Australians to fall victim to a scam last year. (ABC News) Fraudsters have taken control of computer

After Mr Litchfield did this, graphs and other information appeared on his screen, and a woman asked him questions about his download speed.

He is assured the ‘problem’ can be ‘fixed’ remotely, as long as he keeps the landline open.

The scam started with a person calling Mr Litchfield pretending to be from the NBN. (Unsplash: Jay Wennington)

Mr Litchfield said those involved in the scam tried to ensure he stayed at his home in Daglish as long as possible, and he did so for days.

He said they may have even arranged for two men posing as technicians to appear in the street at a certain time.

“Sure enough, around one o’clock a white van pulls up outside my place, two men get out in what looked like NBN uniforms and then they disappear.

“I went out and checked the van and sure enough, it had everything you would consider telecommunications equipment in it.”

Made to feel like a prisoner in own house

Mr Litchfield said the people on the phone assured him the ‘technicians’ were working at a junction box and claimed cabling needed fixing.

After a few days, Mr Litchfield said he felt like he was a prisoner in his own house.

“Friday comes and by this time I’ve had enough and I just say, ‘look, I’m going out’.”

The scammers asked him to keep the landline open while he was gone.

“I had to go to the bank, I went to the bank and I got a statement and that’s where we discovered that approximately $100,000 was taken.”

Each transaction was just under $10,000 so as not to attract the attention of the bank and was withdrawn twice a day over five days, totaling $99,416.

“I’m told in very blunt terms, the money was paid out to a Westpac bank account by bill pay, and it’s all gone, bad luck.”

Seniors ‘targeted’ by scammers

Mr Litchfield said he always thought he was aware of scammers and what they could do.

But he said seniors were often targeted, and he recommended that any offers or demands made over the phone should be backed up in writing.

“Banks are racing headlong into digitization and artificial intelligence and these types of scams are only going to increase because Australia doesn’t have a very good record of cyber security.

“Vigilance is everything.”

The 72-year-old, who had a $1000 transaction limit on the account, said he was still seeking answers from the Bank of Queensland.

‘Remote access scams’ are on the rise

Mr Litchfield was the victim of what was known as a remote access scam, which claimed 60 victims in WA in 2022, a significant increase on the previous year.

SMS-delivered scams are also on the rise.

While investment scams accounted for the largest amount of financial losses, the number of victims was at 155, dwarfed by 274 victims who fell victim to online shopping scams.

Trade Minister Sue Ellery said the increase in online shopping and activity during the pandemic had helped drive the bigger losses in WA in 2022.

“That’s why we need to talk about this more,” she said.

“We need to remind people to practice the pause because the ease, the convenience and the speed of living your life using online services and using your phone is fantastic.

“But there’s a flip side to that, and the flip side is that you have to be wary of people trying to take advantage.

“People will always find a way to do the wrong thing.”

Losses double in five years

The biggest reported single losses in WA were $800,000 to a romance scam in May 2022, and $732,000 to phishing in April.

ScamNet’s Year in Review shows that since 2017, the amount lost in WA has almost doubled, from $8.1 million to $15,988,513 in 2022.

Scammers target people through calls, texts and emails. (pexels)

In one year, 2020, the total amount lost actually dropped, by two million even though the number of victims increased.

Since then, with the onset of the pandemic and more people spending more time at home, significant funds have been stolen.

In 2022, women accounted for nearly 60 percent of victims of reported scams, and nearly 70 percent of the total amount lost.

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