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Businesses warned to remain vigilant as scams soar

Cameron Micallef
Cameron Micallef
10 June 2021 1 minute readShare
Businesses warned to remain vigilant as scams soar

Australian businesses are being warned to remain vigilant, with a scam costing them $128 million in 2020.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch has shown Australian businesses were duped out of millions through payment redirection scams.

False billing scams were the most common by businesses, making up three-quarters of all losses businesses endured.

There was a range of false billing scams but it was a specific type of fake billing scam, called payment redirection scams or business email compromise scams, that hit small businesses hardest.

In these scams, the cyber criminal will pretend to be a business or an employee and request an upcoming payment to be directed to a fraudulent bank account.

These scams have resulted in $14 million in losses and reported by 1,300 businesses.

“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,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.

Scamwatch also observed a new type of scam in 2020 that targeted farmers looking for a good deal on tractors and farm machinery.

Scammers advertised equipment at prices well below market value, and told farmers that they couldn’t view the tractors prior to purchase due to government restrictions from the pandemic.

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

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,” Mr Keogh said.

Businesses urged to come forward

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.

Businesses that have been scammed should contact their bank as soon as possible. If the scam occurred on a platform such as Facebook, contact them directly to report it.

Top 5 scams by losses as reported by businesses in 2020 (Scamwatch data only)

Scam category

Reported losses 2020

False billing


Health & medical product scams


Investment scams


Online shopping scams


Classified scams


Businesses warned to remain vigilant as scams soar
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Cameron Micallef
Cameron Micallef

Cameron Micallef is a journalist at Nest Egg, writing primarily about personal wealth and economic markets. 

Prior to this, Cameron worked for Australian Associated Press. He graduated from the University of Wollongong with a double degree in communications and commerce.

You can contact him on: [email protected]

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