$300 million lost in online scams in Australia

A SURGE in scams targeting social media sites such as Facebook has seen a record number of rip-off reports to the national consumer watchdog, according to a report released today.

The unprecedented level of scam activity has prompted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to provide urgent advice to people to avoid becoming another con job victim.

Last year there were 200,000 scam reports made to the ACCC - costing victims almost $300 million in lost money - which was a 47 per cent hike on the 2015 figures, the ACCC said.

South Australians accounted for more than 13,000 reports worth around $4 million in losses.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said there had been a "sharp increase in scams taking place through social media sites''.

"It can be really hard to tell who's genuine and who's fake these days," she warned.

Ms Rickard said the majority of reports about scams via social media were taking place on Facebook.

"The ACCC is working with Facebook, as well as the major banks, MoneyGram, Paypal,

Western Union and Apple to better tackle scams and reduce the harm experienced by consumers," she said.

Among the most common social media scams reported to the ACCC's Scamwatch involved dating and romance and fake traders.

Around 30 per cent of dating and romance scam victims reported were conducted via social media sites, most commonly on Facebook.

"Dating and romance scammers trick their victims into falling in love with them and then use

their victim's trust to deceitfully take their money," Ms Rickard said

"If someone you've met through social media but you've never met in person asks you for

money, your alarm bells should be ringing. Don't ever wire transfer or send money to

someone you don't know because you won't see it again."

More than 240 reports of dating and romance scams came from South Australian victims, of whom 68 lost money, 22 being conned out of more than $10,000 each, according to the ACCC report.

While investment scams accounted for the most losses last year, fake trader scams were also on the increase with victims often responding to online store advertisements on social media sites offering discounted products made by well-known brands, the report found.

Ms Rickard urged people to respond to "generous'' sale offers by researching the company, check where the product is coming from, check the company's website and try and find

any reviews about the business before making a purchase.

Social media scams are the theme of the annual ACCC Fraud Week beginning today.

Originally published as Online scams hit record levels