Australians have already lost over $288,000 to vehicle scams in the first quarter of this year, more than all losses reported to Scamwatch in 2019, and scammers have now begun impersonating defence personnel to con their victims.
In a vehicle scam, scammers post fake online listings offering to sell in-demand cars at well below market value to lure potential buyers looking for a second hand vehicle. Scammers seek payment to secure the car for the buyer but never deliver the vehicle.
Vehicle scams are commonly hosted on sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Autotrader, Car Sales, Cars Guide and Gumtree.
"As second hand car sales increased during the pandemic, unfortunately so did vehicle scams. If current trends continue, Australians could lose much more to vehicle scams this year than the $1 million lost in 2020," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
"We want to raise awareness of these scams to reduce the number of people who may be vulnerable to them."
A new technique we are seeing is scammers pretending to be defence personnel. In 97 per cent of reports received this year, the scammer claimed to be in the military (navy, army and air force), or to work for the Department of Defence, and said they wanted to sell their vehicle before deployment. This sought to create a sense of urgency with buyers and explained the unusually low listing price of the vehicles and why buyers could not inspect them prior to payment.
Email addresses that do not bear the legitimate the defence email format of @defence.gov.au may be an indication of a scam, but even the correct email format does not guarantee the car ad is not a scam, as scammers are able to spoof email addresses. It is best to look for all warning signs to avoid being scammed.
"A price that is too good to be true should be a warning sign for potential buyers. If a classified ad offers a vehicle at a very low price, the ad might not be legitimate. For example, one Scamwatch report noted a listing that advertised a car for nearly $10,000 below its market value to entice buyers looking for a bargain."
Vehicle scammers often seek payment via a third party website. A large number of reports to Scamwatch mentioned the use of escrow agents, a third party who is supposed to 'hold' the money from the buyer until goods are received, before releasing the funds to the seller. Other commonly requested payment methods include eBay, direct bank transfer or international money transfers.
"If the seller claims to be unavailable and insists on payment before meeting the buyer or allowing them to pick up their new car, this should raise suspicions," Ms Rickard said.
"It is relatively common for scammers to claim that they are travelling or moving away to avoid meeting buyers before payment."
"Always try to inspect the vehicle before purchase and avoid unusual payment methods. If you have any doubts, do not go ahead with the deal," Ms Rickard said.
In addition to losing money to vehicle scams, around 20 per cent of consumers who reported vehicle scams have lost personal information, after providing their address, phone number and copies of their driver's license to the scammer. To protect your identity, never provide your personal details to someone you have only met online.
"Fortunately, over 80 per cent of people who reported vehicle scams to us managed to avoid losing money by identifying the scam early. We encourage consumers to trust their instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is," Ms Rickard said.
Further help for consumers
If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible and contact the platform on which you were scammed to inform them of the circumstances.
If you have experienced a loss online and believe the perpetrator is located in Australia, you can also report the scam to ReportCyber. ReportCyber triages reports and allocates them to the relevant law enforcement authorities for further action.
Victims of identity theft, or cybercrime can contact IDCARE, a free government-funded service that will work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and provide support. You can contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or visit www.idcare.org.
Scamwatch received 346 reports of vehicle scams between 1 January and 31 March, with $288,459 in losses reported during this period.
This compares to over 1,000 reports and more than $1 million lost in 2020, and 330 reports and about $245,000 losses in 2019.
People aged 18-24 have lost the most money to vehicle scams in 2021 so far, $79,210, or 27 per cent of total losses. People aged under 35 lost 35 per cent of the total losses reported to vehicle scams so far in 2021. People aged 65 years and over reported lower losses than all other age groups.
New South Wales has the highest number of reports (114) and losses ($97,297) to vehicle scams, while reporters from the Northern Territory and Tasmania have not reported any losses this year to date.
Some examples of the fake Department of Defence emails that have been used in recent vehicle scams include:
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
The Reserve Bank is sticking to the script of maintaining low interest rates for a number of years in its quest to drive unemployment down even further, while returning the rate of inflation to some normality.
The minutes of the Reserve Bank board's April gathering released on Tuesday showed little deviation from governor Philip Lowe's post-meeting statement that left the cash rate unchanged at a record low 0.1 per cent.
"The board remained committed to doing what it reasonably could to support the Australian economy, and would maintain highly supportive monetary conditions until its goals were achieved," the minutes say.
The board reiterated it will not increase the cash rate until actual inflation is sustainably within the two to three per cent target range.
This will need wages growth to be materially higher that it is currently, which will require significant gains in employment and a return to a tight labour market.
"The board does not expect these conditions to be met until 2024 at the earliest," the minutes released on Tuesday say.
It again said a move to negative interest rates is "extraordinarily unlikely".
Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James sees the RBA taking a "wait-and-see mode", with the next major event being March quarter inflation figures on April 28.
"The bank still believes that the pre-conditions for higher rates won't be achieved until 2024. This resolve will be tested by the March quarter inflation data," Mr James said.
The RBA expects the annual consumer price index to rise temporarily to around three per cent around the middle of the year as a result of the reversal of some pandemic-related price reductions.
Annual CPI was just 0.9 per cent in the December quarter.
But in terms of the more interest-rate sensitive rate of underlying inflation, the RBA expects this to remain below two per cent over both 2021 and 2022.
Since the April meeting, the unemployment rate has fallen even further to 5.6 per cent as of March from 5.8 per cent the previous month.
In February, the RBA did forecast the jobless rate being 6.5 per cent at the end of June.
Even so, Dr Lowe wants to see a jobless rate in the low fours.
Meanwhile, confidence among Australians barely changed in the past week as the potential benefits from the unemployment rate were offset by concern over the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index eased just 0.1 per cent after a lofty 5.9 per cent rise in the previous week, remaining above its long-run average.
Compared to a year ago when the economy was entering the depths of recession, confidence a pointer to future household spending was 35.4 per cent higher.
ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank was surprised the drop in the unemployment in last week's labour force data didn't have more of a positive impact on confidence.
"Perhaps the good news on employment offset any fallout from the vaccine disappointment," Mr Plank said.
A revamped vaccination rollout plan is expected to be released on Thursday when the national cabinet meets for a second time this week after the previous strategy was thrown into disarray by restrictions being put on the AstraZeneca treatment.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is now only recommended for people over 50 after cases of blood-clotting both overseas and in Australia in younger people, who have to wait for their Pfizer jabs later in the year.
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
Millions of Australians will be worse off when a tax stimulus measure finishes at the end of this financial year.
The $1080 low and middle income tax offset (LMITO), which benefits people with a taxable income of between $48,000 and $90,000, is due to end in June.
Analysts at the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre estimate some 3.4 million taxpayers will lose out from its removal, 50 per cent of whom will be women.
The LMITO, which is claimable when people submit their tax return, was due to end in the 2019/20 financial year.
But it was subsequently extended as a stimulus measure in the last budget when a series of other personal income tax changes were also introduced.
Bankwest Curtin analysts say the removal of the LMITO effectively cancels out the benefits of these changes to tax thresholds for $48,000-$90,000 earners, making them no better off than they were in 2019/20.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is due to hand down his 2021/22 budget on May 11.
Whether Mr Frydenberg has a change of heart over the LMITO remains to be seen.
"The government doesn't comment on budget speculation," a spokesperson for the treasurer told AAP.
A survey by the Australian Financial Review found 61 per cent of the 530 people polled believed the treasurer should be focused on stimulating the economy, while 31 per cent say he should be repairing the budget.
Economists expect the budget will be in a far better shape than predicted just a few months ago given the boost to revenues from a much stronger than expected economy, sharply lower unemployment and rising commodity prices.
In the mid-year budget review released in December a $197.7 billion budget deficit was forecast for the 2020/21 financial year and a $108.5 billion deficit for 2021/22.
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver believes the deficit could now be $125 billion for 2020/21 and around $50 billion 2021/22.
In the government's most recent monthly financial accounts, it showed the deficit for the 2020/21 financial year to February was $134.6 billion, $23.1 billion smaller than had been anticipated after eight months.
Notably, the iron price struck a 10-year high of $US178 per tonne on Friday compared with $US55 per tonne assumed at the time of the mid-year budget review.
As a rule of thumb, for every $US1 rise in the price of iron ore, the government gains $A250 million in revenue a year.
(Australian Associated Press)
Aged care consumer groups have challenged the Morrison government to deliver urgent reforms to the trouble-plagued sector.
Providers have also outlined a 15-point plan to quickly improve the aged care system.
In their formal response to the aged care royal commission, advocacy groups have outlined a handful of key changes they want to see implemented in the upcoming federal budget.
They want to see an aged care system that treats older people with respect, ensures greater control over their support and delivers appropriate, safe and timely services at a fair price.
Ian Yates from the Council on the Ageing said the reform package should be implemented within the next 12 to 18 months.
"The last thing Australians deserve is the government kicking the can down the road on many of the key changes we need," he said on Monday.
"The government cannot get away with cherry picking a few recommendations now but saying it will consider the rest later."
The groups want stronger governance, integrity and accountability in the aged care sector with more funding, quality control and consumer influence in the system.The
y have recommended setting up an implementation task force with an independent chair and senior government officials to drive the reforms.
"In the coming year, the Morrison government can give older Australians more choice, control and transparency in aged care than they have ever been allowed before," Mr Yates said.
"We recognise the government faces significant challenges in implementing the royal commission's recommendations in full, including the need for major budget funding and a major increase in workforce, but these must be met.
"This is Australia's 'line in the sand' moment for giving us the aged care system we deserve and expect."
Patricia Sparrow from Australian Aged Care Collaboration, which represents more than 1000 providers, said an overhaul of the sector was urgently needed.
"If we are to set up our aged care system to guarantee all older Australians the respect and dignity they deserve we need a total overhaul of the funding model and workforce strategy, not more fiddling at the edges," she said.
Ms Sparrow said broad and ambitious reforms were required.
"As part of this big picture reform we must see the critical aged care workforce grow and be well supported through better pay, conditions and training," she said.
KEY DEMANDS OF CONSUMER GROUPS
* Increased transparency for aged care providers
* Minimum staffing levels
* Wage increases for workers
* Stronger powers for the independent regulator
* A new rights-based aged care act
Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)
For many reasons, women face additional hurdles when it comes to achieving financial freedom. So it's important to take control of your finances now, and be proactive when it comes to planning your financial future.
Ladies, it's time for a reality check. The unfortunate truth is that women experience low-income and poverty at a much higher rate than men. In fact, up to 40 per cent of older, single, retired women now live in poverty, according to not-for-profit foundation Women In Super.
There are many reasons why women end up with less later in life, but it largely comes down to structural and systemic issues. The so called gender pay gap, super gap, wealth gap, investing gap, time spent on unpaid work and the 'pink tax' all play a role.
Luckily, it's not all bad news. Flourix Wealth principal advisor Rachel O'Connor says with a little knowhow, women can take control of their finances and overcome some of the well-known financial traps.
"While keeping up pressure to close the gap is important, women can't afford to wait for the world to change," Ms O'Connor says. "We need to take things into our own hands and make sure we're managing our finances to minimise the impact of this on us personally."
The shocking statistics
In case you're in any doubt about the seriousness of the issue, consider that women retire with 47 per cent less superannuation than men, yet live five years longer on average.
Why is that the case? Here are some of the key drivers behind the gap:
It's little wonder that women over 55 are considered the fastest growing homeless demographic in Australia.
So what can you do about it?
Plenty, according to Ms O'Connor, who says it's essential to have proper planning, investment and protection strategies in play.
"One element is being aggressive with your strategies, for example setting stretch goals for saving and investing in growth assets. Other aspects include mitigating risk, so that a setback doesn't make an already challenging situation impossible.
Supercharge your super
One of the best ways to save for the future is through your superannuation fund, due to the associated tax benefits. But not just any strategy will do. Women need a tailored approach to ensure their money lasts as long as possible.
Ms O'Connor says one of the biggest contributors to the super gap is career breaks, whether it's for family or other reasons, such as returning to study, change careers or travel.
"Making voluntary super contributions before you leave the workforce will give you a head start and help reduce the impact of a break in your career," she says.
"Many employers will allow you to salary sacrifice a bit more of your pay into super, which can increase your balance and also reduce your tax. This can be a great way to take control of the situation and ensure that you aren't falling victim to these gaps."
If your income has dropped due to unpaid leave or part-time work, you may qualify for the government super co-contribution. Or, if you have a spouse, they may qualify for a tax offset if they contribute to your super while your income is low. Another option is contribution splitting, where up to 85 per cent of your spouse's super is transferred to you each year to even up your balances. Speak with a financial planner to find out what's the best option for you.
Invest with purpose
While having a strong savings plan is important, you may also need to take a proactive approach to investment to reach your goals.
"Investing, even a small amount, whether in your own name or via extra super contributions is a good place to start," Ms O'Connor says. "Many online investment platforms enable you to start with a very low balance (though be sure you know what fees you're paying, because this can eat into the returns pretty quickly on lower balances)."
And it's never too early, or too late, to start.
"The strategies you adopt and the areas you focus on are likely to differ depending on your age, but the end goal will be the same. To increase your financial freedom and security."
Once you're on track to building your financial nest egg, it's important to have the right protection strategies in place. That includes adequate insurance and an emergency fund of at least three month's living expenses.
"Illness and injury can totally derail your financial plans, so it's really important to consider what you and your family will need to stay afloat should the worse occur," Ms O'Connor says.
"Insurance can be structured to be relatively cheap depending on your circumstances. It can be similar to the cost of your mobile phone bill each month depending on a number of factors."
Creating a better financial future for all women means we need to start early, by teaching our girls money management tools and techniques that will help them overcome these hurdles.
Start a savings plan early and look into online investment platforms offering 'children's accounts'.
"These can be a great way for kids to start learning about investing," Ms O'Connor says. "They can start with relatively small amounts and watch their money grow using the app. Due to compound interest, starting early could give our girls a serious head start."
Make sure to do your research thoroughly before signing up, as fees can quickly eat into low account balances. Look for accounts that are fee-free for those under-18.
Perhaps the most important thing women can do to reach their financial goals is get expert financial advice. A financial planning professional can give you advice on the best superannuation and investment strategies, as well as which insurance/s you'll need, to reach your financial goals sooner.