Scammers are Winning: € 41.3 ($ 47.8) Billion lost in Scams, up 15%

Stefan Hessel Karin Potel

Stefan Hessel and Karin Potel contributed to the 3rd Global State of Scams Report

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the scam industry has boomed worldwide. In ScamAdviser’s 3rd Global State of Scams Report, 42 countries were analysed on the number of people scammed, the amount of money lost.

Number of Scams Boomed

The number of reported scams increased from 139 million in 2019 to 266 million in 2020. The amount lost grew from € 36 ($ 41.7) to € 41 billion ($ 47.8).

While the definitions and reporting methods used by different countries for scams differ strongly, nearly all nations have reported large increases in the number of reported scams.

The number of scams and money lost is probably only a small fraction of the actual size of online fraud as less than 3% up to 15% of the consumers report a scam.

Investment scams are on the rise

The money lost per victim differs strongly by country as well as type of scam. From less than € 10 for fake shops, counterfeiters and subscription traps to several € 100,000 for ransomware, Business Email Compromise (BEC) and investment/crypto scams.

With the "zero-interest" economy and boredom, especially males, proved to be willing victims to "investment opportunities". These scams, also called ‘pig-butchering’, can run for 3, 6 or even 12 months. The scammer builds up a trusted and sometimes romantic relationship with the victim before inviting him to invest in an 'incredible opportunity'.

Countries are becoming creative

To fight scams, many countries have resorted to more aggressive annual awareness campaigns. However, results seem to be mixed. As the themes of the scam changes (e.g. pet scams, COVID grants), citizens worldwide still seem to fall for them, despite earlier warnings.

The Center for Cybersecurity Belgium (CCB) launched an email address to report phishing emails. It has proven to be a huge success. In 2020, CCB received 3.2 million emails. The data is used to feed Internet filters, protecting Belgium citizens from malicious domains.

Pakistan is training CyberScouts, which can be police officers but also students and youngsters. Goal: ingrain cybercrime awareness in local communities.

Japan launched Operation "Pretend to Be Fooled" asking people who’ve been contacted by a scammer to notify the police. The potential victim and police then work together to catch the criminal. The target victim receives a reward of 10,000 yen (€ 77.-).

How to Turn the Tide?

In many countries, scams are now the most reported form of crime. In Sweden, fraud was 5% of all crimes cases reported in 2000. Now, it is 17% of all reported crime. In the UK and USA, scams are now the most commonly experienced form of crime. Finally, Singapore states that 44% of all crimes are related to online scams.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 0.05% of all cybercrime is actually prosecuted. This makes scams, which are even more underreported than "big cybercrimes", a very lucrative business.

Online security firms are scaling up. Trend Micro, for example, is heavily investing in new anti-scam services, such as the real-time scam detection tool Trend Micro Check. In 2021 they already blocked more than 2.4 billion phishing emails and scam site visits.

While many developing countries are now focussing on building cybercrime awareness amongst their populations, several developing countries have learned that education alone is not enough.

Countries like Spain and the Netherlands have made online reporting via WhatsApp and Telegram easier, resulting in more and better data. The American Federal Trade Commission is gathering all scam-related data from 3,000 federal, state, and local law enforcers.

According to several countries, the next step is for tech giants to take more responsibility, using their own data to identify and prevent scams better.

While the USA, Canada and Australia have started sharing scam data amongst each other, most countries still linger. Yet, sharing online fraud data globally is the only real solution to turning the tide on the worldwide epidemic of scams. A lot of work remains to be done.

The full report will be presented at the Global Online Scam Summit and can be downloaded from

About ScamAdviser

ScamAdviser is an initiative of the Ecommerce Foundation. Since 2012, ScamAdviser has been developing an algorithm that gives every domain a Trust Score based on 40 different data sources. More than 100,000 consumers check every day and ScamAdviser adds more than 1 million new websites to its database every month. It’s data is used by anti-virus software, browsers and internet filters to keep more than 1 billion users safe, every month. For questions you can contact: