The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its latest Targeting Scams report, which details payment redirection scams as the most financially damaging for Australian businesses in 2020.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch website, reported that Australian businesses lost $18m to scams in 2020, a 260 per cent increase on reported losses in 2019. According to Scamwatch’s data false billing scams accounted for three quarters of total losses for businesses, with small and micro businesses accounting for almost 60 per cent of these false billing reports.

The ACCC said there are a range of false billing scams, but the most common type was payment redirection scams, also known as business email compromise (BEC) scams, with 1,300 reports and $14m in losses. This is a substantial increase from the 900 reports and $5m in losses reported in 2019.

In a payment redirection scam, scammers impersonate a business or its employees via email and request an upcoming payment be redirected to a fraudulent account.

ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said: “Small and micro businesses made most of the reports to Scamwatch and experienced an increase in losses in 2020, although larger businesses reported the highest losses.

“One thing we know about scammers is that they will take advantage of a crisis.”

Businesses were also targeted by health and medical scams in 2020. About half of the $3.9 million in total losses reported to health and medical scams were from businesses, as they attempted to procure personal protective equipment for their staff to comply with government guidelines during the pandemic.

Other scam types that impacted businesses throughout the year included phishing, identity theft and hacking scams.

“It is so important for businesses to stay informed about scams so they can protect themselves,” Keogh added.

“The ACCC provides a range of resources for businesses on how to avoid scams on the Scamwatch website and in our media releases throughout the year.”

If your business is scammed you should contact your bank as soon as possible, and if the scam occurred on a platform such as Facebook, contact them directly to report it.

Businesses can also report a scam to ReportCyber, which is run by the Australian Cyber Security Centre and passes reports to law enforcement agencies for assessment and intelligence purposes.

The ACCC said it encourages businesses to make a report on the Scamwatch website and subscribe to Scamwatch’s radar alerts for more information about current and emerging scams.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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