New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show promising trends for national cyber safety, as scammers struggle to lure so much as a response from Australians compared to previous years.
In a statistical breakdown of financial year 2021-22, ABS revealed two thirds of Australians aged 15 and up were "exposed to a scam" during the year.
Following established trends of annual cyber crime statistics, the ABS' Personal Fraud Survey indicated scam attempts have again grown in volume compared to the prior year.
However, a welcome upside from ABS' latest findings are how Australians are choosing to interact with suspicious messages – as many recipients are seemingly choosing not to engage with potential scammers whatsoever.
“The results of The Personal Fraud Survey showed that 65 per cent of people received a scam offer or request in 2021-22, up from 55 per cent in the previous year,” said ABS head of crime and justice statistics, William Milne.
“While more people were exposed to scams this year, we found that the number responding to scams has actually decreased to 552,000.
"The survey shows that 2.7 per cent of Australians responded to a scam in 2021-22 down from 3.6 per cent in 2020-21,” he added.
According to ABS, a person is considered to have responded to a scam if they "sought further information, provided money or personal information, or accessed links associated with the scam" after having been exposed to it.
The results suggest a near 1% decrease in Australians who responded to scams, indicating people are likely becoming more aware of conventional cyber safety advice.
"If you receive a scam call or SMS, do not engage," said Founder and Chief Information Security Officer at 6clicks, Andrew Robinson.
"Block the number (if you can) and report the scam details to scamwatch.gov.au.
"Assume every call, text message or email leading you towards taking an action is a scam and seek to verify its authenticity before taking any further action," he added.
While these latest ABS results are promising, Robinson was also quick to point out the state of national scam awareness is still far from perfect.
"It is pleasing to see awareness rising and Australians responding less to scams," said Robinson.
"But this sentiment masks the fact that it is often the most vulnerable that are impacted significantly.
"Half a million Australians responding to a scam is still far too many. That’s a lot of potential financial loss, but also distress and suffering for those that are the victim of identity theft."
Phone and text scams soaring
According to ABS' findings, 48 per cent of people (9.8 million) were exposed to scams via phone, while a further 47 per cent (9.5 million) were by text message.
Furthermore, while all modes of scam exposure increased from 2020-21 to 2021-22, including email and "over the phone", text messaging saw the largest increase by doubling from 23 per cent up to a mammoth 47 per cent.
Rising scam vectors, such as the notorious "pig butchering" scams which have extorted hundreds of millions of dollars across the globe, are increasingly adopting messaging apps and SMS as a primary means of contacting their victims.
New laws which came into effect in July 2022 now demand Australian telecommunications providers “make best efforts to identify, trace, block and otherwise disrupt scam calls and scam SMS” messages.
Australian telcos have blocked over 90 million scam texts since these legal changes took effect, yet Aussies are still finding themselves inundated by malicious phone contacts.
"Email scams are still happening, but phone and SMS have been popular with scammers recently because they have a superficial air of authenticity about them," said Robinson.
"People got familiar with scams received via email, so scammers adapted and changed tactics. I suspect they also learnt it is just as easy to spoof caller ID as it is email addresses."
Finally, ABS' survey results showed those who do respond to a scam are more often "reporting their experiences to authorities."
"Of those who responded to a scam, 57 per cent reported their most serious incident, up from 50 per cent in 2020-21," said ABS.