Report reveals middled aged Aussies falling victim to investment and romance scams as Facebook scams surge


Scammers stole a record $22m from Western Australians last year — up 36 per cent from the previous year, according to a new report.

The WA ScamNet Year In Review report showed people aged between 35 and 44 years incurred the highest losses, falling victim to investment, dating and romance scams.

More than $12m was lost in investments scams alone and $3.7m was taken through dating and romance scams.

WA ScamNet predicts the use of artificial intelligence in voice and video scams to emerge more this year, particularly when it comes to romance and family impersonation scams.

Earlier this year, the National Anti-Scam watch warned Australians looking for love online to beware of financial criminals who lured them into investment scams.

Last year, Australians lost more than $40m to romance baiting scams, which disproportionately impacted people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Catriona Lowe said scammers were cold-hearted criminals who looked to exploit people’s emotions to take their money.

“We are urging people to not take financial or investment advice from someone you have only met online,” she said.

“Even if you think you know who you are messaging, remember that it could be a scammer on the other side of the screen.

“These scammers will spend weeks, even months, messaging their victim, making them feel like they’ve formed a genuine connection before shifting the conversation to investment or cryptocurrency opportunities.

“Ultimately, these ‘opportunities’ turn out to be investment scams, leaving the victim not only broken hearted but out of pocket by significant amounts of money.”

The most common type of scam in WA occurred on buy and sell classified sites, with Facebook Marketplace responsible for more than 160 people losing $116,500.

Last year, the number of Facebook scams reported to Consumer Protection increased by 62 per cent.

Scammers used fake prizes, giveaways, phony jobs, fake advertising and cryptocurrency schemes to defraud their victims.

Fake rental properties were also being advertised on Facebook Marketplace where scammers posed as landlords to fleece would-be tenants out of bond and rent money.

WA Commerce Minister Sue Ellery said while social media was great to keep connected, it was also where scammers hid in plain sight.

“The figures from the WA ScamNet report show why it’s important for consumers to continue to ‘practice the pause’,” she said.

“Whether it’s taking time to consider whether a sale or offer online is legitimate, or sharing personal information, these decisions could save you from the financial and emotional toll that comes with being scammed.

“Payment methods are also crucial to look out for, so make sure you only use secure forms of payment when using online marketplaces.

“The best way to protect yourself when visiting online marketplaces is to treat ‘too good to be true’ offers with scepticism, and to also be suspicious of buyers or sellers who can’t meet in person.”

Nationally people aged over 65-years old were more likely to lose money to scams.