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Australian cryptocurrency scams earned $4.3 million last year, up 190%

There was no bear market for Bitcoin fraud

Australian fraudsters earned $4.3 million (AU$6.1 million) with cryptocurrency scams last year—a revenue increase of 190 percent when compared to 2017.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s new report details the extent of the nation’s problem with cryptocurrency fraud.

In total, it fielded 674 reports of scams that requested cryptocurrency for payments in 2018.

Almost half of of all losses were reported by men aged 25 to 34, and over 80 percent were contacted via the internet (social media, forums, or email).

The most successful cryptocurrency scam category was investment fraud, with $1.8 million (AU$2.6 million) in reported losses.

“To avoid the fraud and scam detection systems employed by banks, scammers are now increasingly asking for payment via unusual payment methods such as gift cards and cryptocurrencies,” wrote the ACCC.

Some victims reported being tricked into buying cryptocurrency through the scammer‘s own software, but when they tried to cash out, they were either unable to make contact or were given excuses.

Other scams requested payment in cryptocurrency for forex and commodities trading, and other investment ‘opportunities.’

“Scamwatch has also received reports from victims of various types of scams being directed by a scammer to the nearest Bitcoin automatic teller machine to convert money to Bitcoin and then transfer it to the scammer,” said the ACCC.

Last year, Hard Fork reported scammers had defrauded four Australian immigrants of $35,000 (AU$50,000). Imposters threatened deportation unless they deposited cash into specific Bitcoin ATMs to pay off non-existent tax debt.

Overall, incidents of the scammers impersonating the Australian Tax Office rose an eye-watering 900 percent by late 2018, with tens of thousands of reports surfacing of an automated ‘robo-calls.’

The ACCC received 177,516 scam reports last year, worth a combined $75 million (AU$107 million.) So, while revenue generated by cryptocurrency scammers increased, it still represents a small fraction of Australia’s fraud.

Apple iTunes cards remained the most requested form of payment, with demands for other gift cards (as well as Google Play) increasing rapidly.

The report warned the international nature of fraud today can make bringing scammers to justice incredibly difficult. This renders education and public awareness the primary defence.

The ACCC maintains a “Little Black Book of Scams” featuring many examples and case studies, which you can find here.

Did you know? Hard Fork has its own stage at TNW2019, our tech conference in Amsterdam. Check it out.

Published April 29, 2019 — 10:01 UTC