- Figures show community becoming ‘scam smart’ and heeding warnings
The number of West Australians falling victim to scams has dropped dramatically, with financial losses almost halving in 2015 compared to the previous year.
A total of 456 victims reported losing $9.8 million to scams in 2015, compared to 657 victims losing $16.8 million in 2014, a 42 per cent decrease in losses.
Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said the dramatic drop in the past year may be a welcome indication that the community was becoming more aware of scams and heeding the warnings.
“Looking at the 2015 figures compared to previous years, it appears that people are now becoming more ‘scam smart’ with fewer people falling victim and, in most categories, lesser amounts are being lost,” Mr Mischin said.
“Romance and relationship fraud tops the list of scam types with $4.9 million lost last year, but is a 55 per cent reduction compared to 2014.
“This is a great result for the government authorities involved in battling the scourge of scams and consumer fraud in the community. The reduction denies criminals any financial gain from their ruthless and heartless attempts to deceive people and steal their hard-earned money.”
Project Sunbird, a joint initiative of Consumer Protection and the Major Fraud Squad at WA Police, reports the amount of money sent to West African countries primarily for romance and investment fraud fell by 26 per cent in 2015.
“This indicates a high degree of success in the strategy to send letters to people who are transferring money to countries which are known hot spots for fraud activity, and warning them that they may be a victim of a scam,” the Minister said.
“The data shows that 72 per cent of scam victims who received the first letter from Project Sunbird in 2015 stopped sending more money immediately, a rise compared to 2014. Half of the victims who received a second letter also stopped sending money to scammers.
“Our general advice to people is to think carefully before sending money to anyone they don’t know or haven’t met in person and, if in doubt, contact Consumer Protection for advice and assistance before falling victim to consumer fraud.”
Mr Mischin said despite the overall reduction in scam losses, other categories of scams went against the trend and increased in 2015, including:
- accommodation scams, where bogus online advertisements trick prospective tenants or holidaymakers to make payments to scammers instead of the real owners
- rebate and refund scams, as well as beneficiary and employment scams
- tax debt scams where scammers leave a disturbing recorded message or make phone calls threatening to take legal action if the consumer did not pay a bogus tax debt.