Wagga's culturally and linguistically diverse citizens are at risk of falling victim to scams, as a national report found culturally diverse Australians lost a total of $22 million in 2020.
Earlier in the year, Wagga citizens expressed concerns the city's new migrants and refugees were more vulnerable than others to phone and internet scams. Now, ScamWatch has released a report revealing financial losses to scams by linguistically and culturally diverse Australians increased by 60 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019.
The report found people with disabilities, First Nation peoples and culturally and linguistically diverse Aussies lost a collective $34 million to scams last year.
Wagga Multicultural Council case worker Daniel Harris works with new migrants and refugees in the city and said the numbers don't surprise him.
"This is something we see most days," Mr Harris said. "Local clients will come in and have a phone number or message on their phone and they ask us to track [it]."
Bureau of Crime and Statistics data shows the Riverina recorded 743 incidents of fraud in 2020, and 220 of those were directly linked to scams, a number that has remained consistent for the past three years.
Research indicates the number is likely far higher, however. A 2015 Personal Fraud Survey by the Bureau of Statistics found almost two-thirds of fraud or scam victims, whether individuals or businesses, do not report the crime.
Mr Harris said recently arrived refugees and migrants are particularly at risk. They are often hit in their first 18 months by scammers who take advantage of their language and cultural barriers.
"They trust people are legitimate when they talk to them because of language barriers," he said. "They don't fully understand what the person is saying to them when they speak English so there are obvious vulnerabilities."
A spokesperson for the ACCC said a lot of international movement can also make people more vulnerable.
"New migrants, and particularly refugees, may be more vulnerable to these scams because they will often transition through numerous countries before arriving in Australia," they said.
"So, a call showing up on their phone coming from an overseas country is not a red flag as it could just be someone they know or a family member who is also transiting through a range of different countries."
One scam that plays upon that international number recognition is the "Wangiri", in which a number will call and hang up hoping to prompt the person on the other end to call back. They will then keep them on the phone and charge exorbitant international phone fees for their time.
The ACCC advises anyone targeted by a scam to report it to ScamWatch. If a victim is unsure how to proceed they should reach out to police.
They also advise anyone who has lost finances to contact their bank immediately as sometimes transactions can be cancelled or fraudulent accounts blocked.
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