By Cameron Abbott and Rebecca Gill
Australian businesses and consumers were duped into paying scammers with nearly half a billion dollars in 2018 according to the ACCC’s Targeting Scams: Report of the ACCC on scam activity 2018 (Report). The Report also highlights the use of sophisticated technology by scammers.
According to the Report, the most financially harmful scam affecting Australian businesses was the ‘business email compromise’ (BEC) scam. This involved a scammer gaining access to a business’s entire email or IT system. The scammer would then impersonate the business and send emails to suppliers and customers of the business, advising changes to payment details.
The losses from BEC scams exceeded $60 million in 2018, which is a 170 per cent increase from 2017. The global loss from BEC scams between 2013 and 2018 is estimated at US$12.5 billion. Other scams affecting businesses included investment scams and phishing.
A key, and worrying, trend identified in the Report was the increasing use of sophisticated technology by scammers. For instance, victims were tricked into investing in various cryptocurrencies through scammers’ fraudulent software platforms. The reported losses from cryptocurrency investments totalled $6.1 million in 2018, which is a 190 per cent increase from 2017.
Scammers also demanded payments from victims through unusual methods to avoid detection by money laundering systems. Such methods included payments in cryptocurrencies, Google Play cards and iTunes cards. The gift card numbers were then sold on the black market and turned into money.
This provides yet another reminder that your employees are your first line of defence to cyber-attacks and education and consistent reinforcing of warnings is now a critical part of any cyber security plan. Many of our clients are also adopting far tighter verification procedures before implementing any change to vendor payments details.