Australia

Indigenous consumers scammed out of $1.7m last year: ACCC

A coronial inquest into the issue of Indigenous youth suicide is underway. Source: AAP

Indigenous Australians lost $1.7 million to scammers in 2017, marking a significant increase from previous years, according to the consumer watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has revealed it received 1,810 complaints of scam activity from Indigenous Australians in 2017.

The total loss from these scam reports added up to $1,680,367 – a rise of 14 per cent on the previous year.

“Reports of scam activity from Indigenous people has, unfortunately, never been higher,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

According to new data released by the ACCC, more than 100 cases involved Indigenous victims of dating and romance scams, with reported losses of more than $700,000.

Fake employment and investment opportunities also made up a significant number of the reports, as well as online shopping and lottery scams.

“These scams are very convincing which makes them hard to spot. In the case of online shopping scams, the scammer creates a very believable-looking online store purporting to sell well-known products at great prices,” Ms Rickard said.

“With investment scams, the scammer will… spend months grooming their victim, and even use flashy brochures and websites to give them an air of legitimacy.”

Half of the Indigenous victims of scammers ended up losing money, costing them $6500 on average.

Ms Rickard also warned Indigenous Australians to be wary of unsolicited contact from someone purporting to be from a government agency.

“Scammers are very good at what they do. They will commonly pretend to be… from government agencies, or threaten you with arrest, or say you’ve received an increase in your benefits, to get your money and personal information,” she said.

“Never give them this personal information…contact the agency they say they’re from directly to see if they’re telling the truth.”

The ACCC has been working with Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory on scam education and said the awareness outreach programs have resulted in a decline in the targets of scammers sending money overseas.

The national data indicates Australians lost a total of $340 million to scams last year, with the majority of scams taking place over the phone.

For more information on scams, how to report them and tips on how to protect yourself, visit the Federal Government's Scamwatch website here. The Scamwatch website has information about scams in various languages.

If you are concerned that your identity has been compromised, contact the national identity and cyber support service (IDCARE) here.

Do you know more about this story? Email jessica.washington@sbs.com.au.

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