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Aussies lose $229M to scams in 2015 as online swindles rise

Con artists are increasingly taking to email and social media to grift Australians out of millions of dollars, with new data showing just how bad the problem is.

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Seamus Byrne/CNET

The ACCC is warning Australians to keep their guard up online after a rise in scams left victims AU$229 million out of pocket in 2015.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released its annual Targeting Scams Report, tracking a rise in the number of people reporting scams as well as an increase in financial losses. In total, the ACCC received reports of $84.9 million going down the drain.

But for the first time, the consumer watchdog has combined its data with ScamWatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), and the combined bill from scams across Australia hit a high of AU$229 million.

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The ACCC's annual Targeting Scams Report has tracked a rise in predatory behaviour online.

ACCC

Investment cons and dating scams were called out as key offenders, accounting for less than 5 percent of reports, but 56 percent of financial losses. And with online swindles accounting for a bigger proportion of the problem in 2015, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard warned Australians to stay alert on email and social media.

"Dating and romance scams take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media," she said. "Scammers spend months and even years establishing a relationship with their victims before making up a reason they need to 'borrow' money, such as medical emergencies or travel expenses.

"Never send money to someone you have met online -- chances are you will be left with a broken heart and an empty bank account."

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