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Australians lost $150M to digital assets scams in 2022

Australians lost a record $2.1 billion to scammers last year, a new report by the country’s competition watchdog has revealed. Digital asset scams accounted for 7% of the losses at $149 million.

In its report, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) disclosed that losses to fraudsters shot up 80% from 2021 to hit AUD3.1 billion (US$2.09 billion) in 2022. The regulator added that the average amount lost to scammers increased to over $13,400.

Digital asset scams were rising in Australia despite the market downturn in 2022. ACCC revealed that 3,910 Aussies lost money to a ‘crypto’ scam, a 162% spike from the previous year. These scams cost investors $148.9 million. Most of the digital asset scams were conducted via social networking or mobile apps.

Data by Scamwatch, the ACCC’s scam database, further revealed that investment scams had shot up in popularity, accounting for 66% of all fraud recorded, up from 55% in 2021. Digital assets were the most common payment method, accounting for $92.3 million of the losses. Bank transfers were second with $67 million in losses.

Digital assets were also the most common payment method in employment scams, which rose 260% to $6.5 million last year. Of this, $3.2 million was paid in digital assets.

Australians were also targeted by pig butchering scams in which scammers establish a romantic connection with their targets and work them for long periods before defrauding them. Digital assets were also the most common fixture in such scams, with most scammers coercing the victim to set up and fund trading accounts on popular platforms.

While the scammers had their best year yet, the ACCC deputy chair believes the damage is bigger than the figures can show.

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

Globally, digital asset scams dipped in 2022, data by Chainalysis earlier this year showed. Fraudsters swindled $5.9 billion last year, a 46% dip from the $10.9 billion they stole in 2021.

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