ACCC boss Gina Cass-Gottlieb has outlined her favoured approach for reducing the cost that scammers put upon Australians, with a focus on better collaboration between government, consumer groups and the private sector.
In a speech on Wednesday, the ACCC chair said the ‘financial and emotional devastation’ scammers caused could be limited but the evolving fight to do so was ‘never-ending’.
“No sooner do we succeed in shutting down one scam than another springs up in its place,” Cass-Gottlieb told an audience at the Consumer Law Forum in Sydney.
“I firmly believe that by bringing together government, consumer groups, the financial services sector and the telecommunications sector we can make Australia a much harder target for scammers and prevent not only the billions of losses that we have seen to date but also the emotional devastation.”
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Cass-Gottlieb said her plan was a ‘call to action’ to make Australia one of the most challenging scam targets in the world.
The first step was to prevent scammers from reaching victims by disrupting phone calls, SMS, email, social media and any other would-be means of contact.
Secondly, consumers must be better educated so they have a greater chance of recognising a potential scam from the outset.
“Scammers are increasingly sophisticated and cunning in the ways they trick consumers and businesses, so this is a key challenge to address,” Cass-Gottlieb said.
The third prong of the ACCC boss’ plan was the introduction of measures to enable intervention if a consumer had actually been convinced to transfer funds to a scammer.
There should be a safety net in place to prevent this from happening, she said.
Estimates for the cost of scams in Australia last year are at about $1.8 billion in combined losses, based on reports made to Scamwatch, ReportCyber, financial institutions and other government agencies.
But Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC believed about a third of scam victims did not report their losses, meaning the true figure for losses incurred in 2021 was $2 billion.
“These figures are staggering and represent a severe financial impost. What can never be calculated, however, is the emotional toll and the life-changing consequences that can result from these scams and their impacts on individuals, families, and businesses,” she said.
This article was first published by The Mandarin.