Scam Alert

Culturally and linguistically diverse community lose $22 million to scams in 2020, reports from Indigenous Australians up by 25 per cent


Last year scammers stole close to $34 million collectively from people who identified as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), people with disability, and Indigenous Australians.

Figures from the ACCC’s latest Targeting Scams report released earlier this week shows losses to the CALD community represented a 60 per cent increase compared to 2019, across 11,700 reports.

“Last year we saw a big increase in losses to scams affecting culturally and linguistically diverse communities,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“Some members of CALD communities suffered higher losses on average than the overall community, accounting for one in every eight dollars lost.”

“Unfortunately, scheming scammers try to target people who by virtue of their background, disadvantage, language skills or disability may experience vulnerability, and be more likely to fall for their tricks,” Ms Rickard said.

Investment scams were responsible for $6.3 million in losses, the most costly type of scam for the CALD community.

This was followed by threat based scams, and people from CALD communities lost $6 million to these scams up 248 per cent from 2019.

The Chinese authority scam is a common threat based scam which cost people from the CALD community $4.3 million last year.

These scammers impersonate Chinese authorities and accuse their victims of committing a crime, such as sending a parcel with illegal goods like fake credit cards, and threaten them with deportation or arrest unless they paid money or provided their personal information.

“We received over 2,000 reports about Chinese authority scams in total last year with $7 million lost, and almost a quarter of these were from people with a CALD background,” Ms Rickard said.

“This shows that these scams continued to disproportionately target Mandarin speakers in Australia.”

Other threat based scams involved scammers impersonating Australian government departments such as the Australian Tax Office saying you will be arrested for unpaid tax and the Department of Home Affairs threatening to arrest you and have you deported.

“Australian governments will never threaten you with immediate arrest. Always stop and think about who you might be dealing with, and if you’re not sure whether the call is legitimate, hang up and call the organisation directly using contact details you independently source,” Ms Rickard said.

Scams also impacted Indigenous Australians in 2020. Last year Scamwatch received 3,455 reports with over $2 million in losses from Indigenous Australians. While the losses were 4 per cent lower than those in 2019, the reports increased by nearly 25 per cent.

The most financially damaging scams for Indigenous communities were dating and romance scams, followed by investment scams and online shopping scams.

People who identified as having disability made more than 7,500 reports to Scamwatch, and lost close to $10 million to scams last year. Dating and romance scams accounted for about half of these losses.

More than one third of reporters also said they had lost personal information. Meanwhile, 25 per cent of people without disability reported losing personal information.

“Unfortunately scammers do target all sectors of the community so it is important to stay alert,” Ms Rickard said.

“Remember, never give your credit card details or personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue no matter who they say they are, as scammers can do an excellent job impersonating the government and private sector organisations like banks and telephone companies.”

“If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately,” Ms Rickard said.

The ACCC has translated the Little Black Book of Scams into ten languages to help the community understand and avoid scams.

More information on scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

The ACCC regularly engages in Indigenous outreach programs and shares scam warnings on the Your Rights Mob Facebook page.

Consumers can follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.

Notes to editors

Culturally and linguistically diverse communities

  • People from CALD communities represented 5.4 per cent of all reports made to Scamwatch, but 12.6 per cent of all losses for 2020.
  • Investment scams were the most financially damaging with $6.3 million in losses, followed by threat based scams with $6 million and dating and romance scams with $5.6 million.
  • There was also a big increase in investment scams for people from a CALD background – 20 per cent compared to the 6.5 per cent generally.
  • People from CALD communities made 11,702 reports to Scamwatch and lost $22.1 million

People with disability

  • People with disability made 3.5 per cent of all reports to Scamwatch and comprised 5.5 per cent of total losses. 
  • The most financially damaging scams were romance scams with $5.5 million lost, followed by investment scams with $2.6 million and online shopping scams with $242,955.
  • People with disability made 7,543 reports to Scamwatch and lost $9.7 million.

Indigenous Australians

  • Indigenous Australians made up 1.6 per cent of all reports to Scamwatch and 1.1 per cent of total losses.
  • Of the 3,445 reports by Indigenous people, 35.7 per cent involved a loss of personal information. This compares with 25 per cent of reports from non-Indigenous.
  • The scams with the biggest financial losses were dating and romance scams with $590,553, investment scams with $336,794 and online shopping scams with $275,661.
  • Indigenous Australians made 3,445 reports to Scamwatch and lost over $2 million.



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