Australians lost more than $425 million due to more than 160,000 reported online scams in the first nine months of this year online, according to new figures released to mark Scam Awareness Week 2022.

Hosted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Scams Awareness Network, Scam Awareness Week will run across this week with an aim of empowering Australians to recognise and prevent online scams.

With more than $425.8 million in total losses from these cons, the figure is 90 percent higher year-on-year compared with 2021.

These figures are significantly higher than those reported to scam report website Scamwatch last year and are likely to be even far higher in reality, with only about 13 percent of victims reporting losses.

The recent significant data breaches in Australia impacting Optus and Medibank customers has increased the dangers of being scammed in Australia.

“With millions of Australians more vulnerable to scams following the recent spate of large-scale data breaches, there has never been a more important time to know the tell-tale signs of a scammer,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“We know scammers are relentlessly targeting Australians. Research commissioned by the ACCC shows that 96 percent of the population was exposed to a scam in the five years to 2021. Half of the survey’s respondents were contacted weekly or daily by scammers, a figure expected to rise given current cyber security concerns.”

As part of Scam Awareness Week, the ACCC will be launching a series of short educational videos providing simple and practical tips to help people identify scams and protect themselves.

These tips include to stop before handing over any kind of sensitive information online, to think about whether the message could be fake and to act quickly once you realise something is wrong.

“Scammers evolve quickly, and their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated and unscrupulous,” Rickard said.

“There have been hundreds of reports to Scamwatch in the weeks after the recent high-profile data breaches and that is expected to continue. Cyber criminals have capitalised on the data breaches by impersonating government departments and businesses to carry out identity theft and remote access scams.

“While there is a great deal of work underway to disrupt scammers, our best defence against these types of scams is education. We want Australians to know what to look for, so they don’t get caught out.”

More than 350 private-sector, not-for-profit and government organisations have partnered with Scamwatch as part of Scam Awareness Week.

This year the most common tricks online were investment scams, with $292.9 million lost by Australians to these cons this year. Dating and romance scams netted $29 million, while remote access scams raked in $18.7 million.

These scams included phishing attacks, false billing and online shopping scams, and were most commonly conducted through phone, SMS or email.

The recent Labor federal budget included a $12.6 million package over four years for fighting scams and fraud. This included $9.9 million for the ACCC to create a National Anti-Scam Centre, $2 million for Home Affairs to strengthen ties with IDCARE and $700,000 for a public awareness campaign.

Scammers are already taking advantage of the recent data breaches in Australia. Following the Optus breach, a 19-year-old was arrested for allegedly using data from this attack to demand customers pay him $2,000 each.

A scam involving Linkt has also been running rife in Australia this year.