Scammers must pay

13 February, 2024
My question is to the Treasurer. Although it's annoying, there's a reason why banks are asking customers why they want to withdraw cash and what for. A bank manager told me recently that a significant number of customers who came in to withdraw cash were being scammed. Recently in my circle a couple, a sensible couple, were scammed of $100,000, and another friend of mine was scammed of $40,000. Treasurer, what more can we do to protect the Australian people from this evil?

Dr Chalmers replied: I thank the member for Monash for his question and I commend him for his focus on what is a really important issue. I acknowledge his efforts on behalf of his constituents for some time now. This is a big focus for the government as well. For that, I want to be upfront and say that I take absolutely no credit for the government's focus on scams. That's because the work of the Assistant Treasurer in this regard has been absolutely terrific. He has worked tirelessly to tackle and take on this evil in our community and in our economy in a really impressive way. He has done that in collaboration with the banks, key institutions and other ministers, including the Minister for Communications and others. So I pay tribute to him and to his work.

It's a huge issue, and I thank the hundreds of people who come to his community forums around Australia and all the people who come through our doors in our electorate offices and come up to us at mobile offices too, who are evidence enough of that. In 2022, Australians lost over $3 billion to the absolute grubs who try and scam money out of people—often the most vulnerable people but, as the member identifies in his question, not just people that we would traditionally consider to be vulnerable. That's why we're taking decisive action and it's why we have an ambitious agenda here, led, as I said, by the Assistant Treasurer. In last year's budget, we invested $86.5 million in fighting scams and online fraud; $17.6 million for ASIC to bust fake investment websites; $58 million for the ACCC to establish the world-leading National Anti-Scam Centre; and over $10 million for ACMA to establish and enforce an SMS centre ID registry to stop scam texts—and again I acknowledge the work of Minister Rowland.

It's still a big problem, but the crackdown on scams is already showing some signs of success. In the six months since the Anti-Scams Centre was created, losses to scams reduced by 29 per cent compared with the same period in 2022. Call disruption technology saved potential victims from major losses, with one consumer saving 300 grand. By last week, ASIC had taken down 4,220 investment scams websites and there are hundreds more in the works. Early data this year shows overall scam losses are around 40 per cent lower than the same period in 2023. The Assistant Treasurer and the Minister for Communications are also working with telcos and digital platforms to see what else can be done in that regard.

This is a very big focus of the government. There has been some absolutely terrific work done by the Assistant Treasurer. It's a very important and welcomed question from the member for Monash, and I thank him for it.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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