Elderly Australians hit hardest by social media scams


Online scammers are targeting a specific group of people in Australia, deceiving them and stealing substantial amounts of money each year, which is a troubling trend.

Financial losses suffered by unsuspecting Australians as a result of social media scams have seen a significant rise in recent years, with elderly residents being the hardest hit demographic nationwide.

A recent report by Scamwatch, a government watchdog, has shed light on the concerning issue of social media scams in Australia. According to the report, Australians will have lost a staggering $95 million to these scams in 2023. There has been a substantial increase of 249 per cent when compared to the previous year.

In the last quarter of 2023, individuals aged 65 and over experienced the most significant losses compared to other groups, accounting for almost one-third of the total losses resulting from social media scams. Scams targeting investments and romantic relationships also targeted older Australians, marking a remarkable 57 per cent increase from the previous quarter.

“Over 16,000 people who reported losing money (in 2023) said it started on a social media platform or an online forum with an ad, a post, or a message,” Scamwatch said.

“Many people reported placing an order, usually after seeing an ad, but never received their goods. Some described advertisements that impersonated real, online retailers.”

“Scammers take advantage of their anonymity, and the relative low cost in reaching a wider audience through fake advertisements and other contact, on social media.”

In total, Australians lost $477 million to scams in 2023, despite losses falling between October and December in a range of areas, including crypto and bank scams.

Over three months, Australians have seen a notable decrease in losses associated with scams. The overall loss amounted to $82 million, marking a 26% decline from the previous quarter and a 43% decrease compared to the corresponding period last year.

In 2023, there was a significant decline in losses from cryptocurrency scams, with a decrease of 74% compared to the previous year. Additionally, losses from bank transfers and investment scams also experienced a notable drop, decreasing by approximately one-third.

From October to December 2023, there were substantial losses reported due to various scams, averaging $1224 per incident. High-cost investment scams account for a significant portion of these losses.

Phishing scams accounted for a significant portion of reported scams in late 2023, totalling over 67,000. These fraudulent schemes often take place via email and are a prevalent form of online deception.

This article was originally published in Public Spectrum.

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