The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a report on trends within the scam economy during 2017. The report identifies cryptocurrency related fraud to comprise less than 1% of the scam activity recorded in Australia last year.
Cryptocurrency Scams Responsible for 0.6% of Australian Losses to Fraud in 2017
The ACCC has published its annual report on the Australian scam economy. The report provides insight into “emerging trends and techniques employed by scammers.”
During 2017, the ACCC, and other pertinent Australian government institutions received “over 200,000 scam reports” corresponding to “losses exceeding $340 million [AUD]” (approximately $258 million USD) – an increase of 13.3% compared with 2016’s total losses.
During 2017, the ACCC attributes $2.1 million AUD ($1.59 million USD approximately) in losses to cryptocurrency scams – a megre 0.617 percent of Australia’s combined losses to scams.
Cryptocurrency Scams Peak During December 2017
The report states that the prevalence of reported cryptocurrency scams was closely correlated to the speculative frenzy surrounding virtual currencies last year.
The states that “In the fourth quarter of 2017, the value and popularity of cryptocurrencies increased worldwide [….] Between January and September 2017, about $100,000 was reported lost per month to scams which had a cryptocurrency angle. However, in the month of December 2017, reported losses to Scamwatch exceeded $700,000 and the average reported loss had jumped from $1885 in January to $13,205.”
The report also states that “With the increased popularity of cryptocurrency speculation in the last quarter of 2017, fake initial coin offerings and other cryptocurrency-related scams were reported […] to the ACCC.”
Many Victims Recommended Scams by Friends
The ACCC describes a variety of different scams involving cryptocurrency that were reported during 2017. In addition to “fake initial coin offerings,” the report states that other scammers “capitalized on the general confusion about how cryptocurrency works and instead of people discovering how to directly buy cryptocurrencies, many found themselves caught up in what were essentially pyramid schemes.” The report adds that “A number of reports showed that victims entered into cryptocurrency-based scams through friends and family who convinced them they were onto a good thing, a classic element of pyramid schemes.”
The report also states that “Not all cryptocurrency-related scams involve victims attempting to invest in stocks or initial coin offerings. Many scammers also ask for payment through cryptocurrencies for a variety of scams because it is easier to remain anonymous while receiving payment. Ransomware scammers for example, commonly ask for payment through Bitcoin.”
Crypto Fraud Dwarfed by Losses Incurred by Other Scams
The ACCC report states that losses to investment scams exceeded $64 million AUD (approximately $48.6 million USD) in 2017 – a 33% increase from 2016. The report also estimates that dating and romance scams accounted for over $42 million AUD (roughly $31.9 USD).
The ACCC also states that “Australian businesses were targeted by business email compromise scams” – resulting in over $22.1 million ($16.8 million USD approximately) being transferred to scammers.