Australian crypto fraud increased by over 162% with almost $150 million lost

Australians lost $148.3 million (AUD$221.3 million) to investment fraud using cryptocurrency as a payment method in 2022 – a 162.4% increase from 2021.

According to an April 17 fraud activity report from the country’s consumer regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a total of 3,910 reports of crypto-fraud incidents were made and the average Australian victim was defrauded of $37,900 (AUD 56,600).

The $148.3 million figure represents 7.1% of the total fraud value of $2.08 billion (AUD $3.1 billion) reported in Australia for 2022.

Wire transfers remained the largest fraudulent payment method with nearly 13,100 reports totaling $141 million – $7.3 million less than crypto payments.

Bank transfer payment fraud averaged around $10,700 (AUD $16,000) per incident, meaning crypto fraudsters were able to defraud 250% more value from each victim.

Data showed that crypto fraudsters mostly contacted victims through social media and networking apps, while bank payment fraudsters more often reached out via phone and email.

In a statement on April 17, ACCC deputy chief Catriona Lowe partly attributed the rise in fraud to new technologies that make it easier to “lure and deceive victims” with increasingly “sophisticated” tactics:

“We’ve seen alarming new tactics emerge that make fraud incredibly difficult to detect. This includes everything from impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organizations to fraudulent texts appearing in the same conversation thread as genuine messages.”

“This matters now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam,” she added.

While the figures are “alarming”, Lowe stressed that the “true cost” of the damage has still not been priced in:

“Australians lost more money to fraud than ever before in 2022, but the true cost of fraud is much more than a dollar figure, as it also causes emotional distress to victims, their families and businesses.”

Lowe explained that the Australian government, law enforcement and the private sector need to strengthen ties to “combat” the scams more effectively and bring down the numbers.

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Related: Aussies exposed as prime target of Israel’s crypto fraud syndicate

According to data from the ACCC’s fraud database Scamwatch, the average investment fraud victim in Australia is a 65-year-old male who will be contacted on social media or respond to a fraudulent advertisement.

They are likely to be tied up in the scam for “several months” before they realize they have been scammed.

Imposter bond offerings, initial public offerings (IPOs), relationship or pig slaughter schemes and money recovery services are among the most common investment scams reported.

The ACCC said in its report that fraud losses “are far higher” than reported, as around 30% of fraud victims do not report it to anyone while only 13% of victims report the incident to Scamwatch.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch, ReportCyber, the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) and other agencies compiled data for the report.

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