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SMEs scammed out of $2.3m so far in 2018: ACCC

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Reporter 6 minute read

Australian small businesses have reported losses of more than $2.3 million to scams this year, according to the national competition watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Small Business in Focus report states that small businesses have incurred losses of more than $2.3 million to scams thus far in 2018, with the majority of scams delivered via email.

“Businesses need to be very careful about business email scams,” Mick Keogh, deputy chair of the ACCC, said.

“These are where scammers pretend to be a supplier of a small business, or even someone within the business like the CEO or CFO, and intercept payments by emailing new payment details.”

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From January to June 2018, small businesses reported 2,186 issues related to abuses of consumer law, up from 2,064 in June–December 2017. These included misleading conduct or false representations (1,072), wrongly accepting payment (221) and unsolicited goods and services (34).

Further, 252 complaints during the six-month period were related to competition issues, including misuse of market power (127) and exclusive dealing (68). This was down from 289 in June to December 2017.

No complaints were related to franchising code issues in the 12 months to June 2018.

In a previous ACCC report, Targeting Scams, published in May, the competition watchdog revealed that in 2017, 5,500 reports were received from businesses about scams, which resulted in a total loss of $4.7 million.

Businesses were most commonly targeted by false billing scams, and employment and investment scams caused the highest financial losses of nearly $1.7 million, according to the May report.

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ACCC’s Scamwatch received 5,432 scam complaints from Australian businesses in 2017, with total losses amounting to $4.6 million. The majority, or 60 per cent of scams, were delivered via email.

Also in May this year, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) warned that there had been an increase in phone scams asking for bank details in order to issue a “refund”, survey customer satisfaction or record banking history.

According to the ABA, some of the techniques used by the scammers include:

  • asking which institution the customer banks with, how long they’ve have banked with the institution and their level of satisfaction;
  • asking for personal and banking details, including names and driver’s licence numbers, bank account or credit card numbers, PINs or internet banking login details; and
  • telling people they are owed a “refund” for overcharged bank fees, but they have to pay a fee for it, which is to be paid via post or Western Union.

The ABA’s executive director of consumer policy, Christine Cupitt, urged Australians to remain vigilant against the scammers, saying: “We’ve seen a concerning rise in the number of people falsely claiming to be from the ABA, preying on unsuspecting victims and asking for their personal financial details.

“The ABA, or any member bank, will never call members of the public seeking information about their personal bank accounts or security information.”

[Related: ABA calls for vigilance against scammers]

SMEs scammed out of $2.3m so far in 2018: ACCC
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