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Banking & Finance | Business

The scam type that almost always goes under the radar

8 Aug 2023, by Amy Sarcevic

Conning the average victim out of $20,000, the world of digital fraud is becoming increasingly costly, prompting the ACCC to call for a “united front” in tackling the issue earlier this year.

Much of the response so far has focussed on big-ticket cases involving a high level of technical sophistication. While these measures are important, Rob Neely, Director of says smaller, unsophisticated scams are going under the radar.

He claims a substantial portion of the $3billion worth of scam losses reported to the ACCC in 2022 involve small, “petty” fraud cases via virtual marketplaces. An even greater number of these may have failed to become known to the regulator, he warns.

“Our research tells us that scams involving the collection of deposits for online purchases that victims never receive are becoming extremely prevalent, Mr Neely said ahead of the Scams Summit.

“Essentially, a consumer is asked to cough up a small upfront sum to secure an item they want to purchase online, and it never shows up in the mail. Meanwhile, the perpetrator blocks all contact and becomes untraceable.”

According to Mr Neely’s research, these types of scams primarily affect men, who lose on average five times more than women, at $1277 per scam.

While they are inherently less harmful than major fraud cases, they represent an economy-wide issue that warrants more focus, he said.

“Of course, to individuals, they are not on the same par as being tricked out of your life savings. But they are still harming consumers, businesses and the broader economy,” he said.

Mr Neely says these scams are so easy to execute and get away with that they are attracting a different breed of perpetrator.

“People who weren’t criminals before now realise they can do 10 scams a day for $70 each and wind up on a $200k salary. It is such a low-risk, high-reward endeavour that even unlikely people get involved.

“It’s not financial whizzes or sophisticated gangs – it’s just regular people who know how to create a sense of urgency when executing a [perceived] ‘sale’.”

With some losses concerning this scam-type teetering between single and double figures, Mr Neely says they are less likely to be reported. Given their pettiness they may also be impossible to legislate against, he warned.

“I don’t see how police will get involved with a fraud involving $10. It’s implausible. This lack of consequence makes it all the more appealing for scammers to continue what they are doing on a broader scale.”

In place of police involvement, Mr Neely is advocating for fraud prevention budgets to be channelled into consumer education.

“Consumer awareness is such an essential piece in the scam prevention response, so it is both a surprise and concern that we have not already seen TV advertisements .

“We have such a large scam prevention team in government and an equally large budget, I find it hard to believe that we aren’t doing all we can to bring greater awareness to this issue. I personally think a big campaign, like we have already seen for driving under the influence of alcohol, is warranted for an issue of this breadth and depth.”

Thankfully, companies such as are helping people to trade more safely online by collecting and delaying the release of funds for online purchases.

“We have an Air BnB-style platform, whereby the consumer pays us at the beginning of the sales cycle, and the seller only receives that payment when the consumer receives the product.

“It is like PayPal, but without the exploitation loophole, whereby buyers claim they never received a product that they actually did and become scammers themselves,” he said.

Talking more about his approach to scam prevention, his company’s recently completed research and his recommendations for a broader, industry-wide scam prevention response, Rob Neely will present at the upcoming Scams Summit.

This year’s event will be held 15-16 August at the PARKROYAL Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Learn more and register.

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