Crypto scams in the land down under are on the rise as investors lost $AUD 113 million ($81.5 million) between January 1 and May 1 this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Monday.
According to Scamwatch, an ACCC-run website helping consumers and small businesses recognize, avoid and report scams, Australians lost a total of more than $AUD205 million ($148 million) to various scams (including crypto) in the first four months of this year.
The majority of the reported losses over this span related to investment scams with $AUD158 million ($114 million) lost—an increase of 314% compared to the same period last year.
“Australians should be very wary of anyone asking them to invest in or transfer money using cryptocurrency, especially if it’s someone you have only met online,” Delia Rickard, ACCC Deputy Chair, said in a statement.
Rickard added that since many consumers are unfamiliar with the complexities of cryptocurrencies, “this can make them more vulnerable to scams.”
The true scale of losses to scams, however, is likely to be much higher as only around 13% of people report their losses, according to the ACCC. The Commission stressed that while the number of reports has slightly reduced, the reported amount of losses—on the contrary—has increased, indicating that on average people reported higher individual losses.
“We are seeing more money lost to investment scams and so are urging all Australians not to trust investment opportunities that seem too good to be true,” said Rickard.
Scammers turn to crypto
Earlier this year, the ACCC already pointed to a significant uptick in investment scams, also noting that cryptocurrencies have overtaken traditional bank payments in frequency.
“We see a number of scams relating to investment schemes, and we are now seeing that the payments in relation to those are now more often by way of cryptocurrency than by way of bank transfer,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said at the time.
The ACCC’s latest warning comes hot on the heels of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s latest report saying that more than 46,000 Americans have also lost over a combined $1 billion in crypto-related scams since the beginning of last year.
While approximately $680 million in losses were reported in 2021, as much as $329 million was reported in the first quarter of 2022 alone, meaning that this year’s figures are likely to be much higher.
Bitcoin (70%), Tether (10%), and Ethereum (9%) were reportedly the most frequently stolen cryptocurrencies, according to the report.