Launch of SCAMwatch website

By Graeme Samuel, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Few responsibilities rate more highly for governments than protecting their citizens from criminal activity such as fraud.
But the proliferation of numerous scams has made this an increasingly difficult task and an additional scourge that all levels of government have been forced to deal with in recent years.

Despite continued warnings, enforcement activity and attempts to track down the criminals behind them, the number of scams continues to grow, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission receives reports from between 400-500 consumers every month.

Education from the local council level through to large, coordinated national and international campaigns remains one of the most potent tools for limiting the reach of scams.

The ACCC has recently launched a new website it hopes will be an effective additional weapon in the fight against scams. The website was launched last month (October) and is designed as a one-stop shop for Australian consumers seeking information or help in relation to scams.

The site offers information on the latest scams to emerge, from cheque overpayment tricks and fake lotteries, through to employment and mobile phone fraud.

It also includes anecdotes from victims who have shared their stories, and importantly advice on how consumers can protect themselves from rip-offs. Readers can use the site as a resource to understand some of the tricks scammers use against them and how best to prevent themselves becoming victims.

The site directs consumers as to the best person to contact depending on their particular case, be it their financial institution, an industry specific ombudsman, the ACCC itself or a number of other consumer protection agencies.

But coordinating the offensive against scams does not stop at providing information to consumers.
A number of government and consumer protection agencies are involved with combating scams, which is where the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce plays a central role. The ACCC makes up one of the 18 members of the Taskforce.

The Taskforce is also important in coordinating a number of targeted campaigns throughout the year, which can also involve the private sector. During Scam Awareness Month earlier this year a number of financial institutions were instrumental in helping to spread information to their customers about scams by displaying warnings and advice on automatic teller machines and through their websites.

In recent months the ACCC has received referrals from state police, state offices of fair trading as well as other domestic and international agencies.

The SCAMwatch website is designed to evolve and keep consumers up-to-date on emerging frauds and provide relevant assistance and advice.

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