'Sextortion' scams targeting young Aussies


More young Aussies the victim of 'sextortion', new research shows it costs more to be poor, and the ASX dishes up 6% gains just as investors pull out. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

Young Australians targeted by 'sextortion' attempts

Westpac data shows the number of scams reported by the bank's customers aged under 18 has almost quadrupled over the past year, and more than doubled for those aged under 30.

young aussies are being targeted by sextortion scams

Westpac general manager of financial crime and fraud prevention, Chris Whittingham, says the data reveals a growing trend of younger Australians being targeted for 'sextortion' - a form of blackmail where someone threatens to share nude or sexual images unless the person gives in to their demands.

"It's really alarming to see such a big spike in the number of scammers tricking young people into sending compromising information online," says Whittingham.

"Scammers will then use this information to extort money from the victim, often requesting a number of small payments over a period of time."

Scammers prey on young people's preference for social media platforms, creating fake accounts to pose as teenagers in a bid to gather details about their victims or gain access to personal content.

For anyone threatened by sextortion, the eSafety Commissioner advises:

  • Do not pay the blackmailer or give them more money or intimate content.
  • Do stop all contact with the person blackmailing you.
  • Do report what's happening.
  • Do remember, it's not your fault, even if you shared the intimate content with them in the first place - anyone can experience sextortion. 

It costs more to be poor

Anglicare Australia research confirms people on lower incomes face higher living costs than others, often paying up to one and a half times more for the same services, pushing them even further behind.

Kasy Chambers, executive director of Anglicare Australia, says low-income earners can pay more because they can't afford to buy in bulk or shop around.

"They pay penalties if they're forced to live further away from their work and communities," adds Chambers. "And the best credit deals are for people with high credit scores and healthy bank balances."

Anglicare Australia is lobbying for an increase in Centrelink payments, making the minimum wage a living wage, and creating cheaper insurance and energy options for people who need them.

Australians pull back from the stock market

The past 12 months have seen Australian shares notch up total gains - dividends plus capital growth - of 6.39%.  But that hasn't been enough to stem the flow of investors leaving the market.

Finder research shows that one in three (34%) Australian adults are direct sharemarket investors, down from a peak of 42% in October 2021.

We are also cutting back how much we hold in shares, with the typical shareholder having $65,501 in stocks in August, down from $79,383 in May.

Finder's Kylie Purcell says Australians are less prepared to invest during the cost of a living crisis.

"Surging prices of essentials and interest rates has many Aussies feeling worse off this year," she says.

Purcell is urging consumers to review their finances, adding, "Continuing to invest during difficult times could fast-track your financial goals."

Great Australian Dream alive and well

Rising interest rates, a cost of living crunch and a shortage of homes listed for sale are making life tougher for home buyers, but our passion for property burns as brightly as ever.

A survey from Mortgage Choice found that four in five Australians believe residential housing remains a good investment.

The research found the top three points of appeal for property are:

  • Peace of mind and financial security  
  • Control of a physical asset 
  • Good rental returns. 

Mortgage Choice found those looking to sell a home are particularly upbeat about the market, with 32% of sellers saying they think interest rates will fall by the end of the year, compared to 19% of all mortgage holders.

The findings come as the housing market hits an overall value of $10 trillion.

The recovery in home values that kickstarted in March this year, has seen home prices nationally jump 4.9% through to the end of August.

The rebound has wiped out half the 9.1% losses recorded between April 2022 and February 2023 according to CoreLogic.

When a gig lands you a fine

The number of people working multiple jobs has soared 7% over the past year, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics saying 959,000 of us now have two or more jobs.

However, a side hustle isn't always a nice little earner.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently fined an unlicensed apprentice electrician $45,000 for completing electrical work organised via the AirTasker platform.

The rogue sparkie's platform profile made false claims that he was licensed, and an investigation identified unsafe electrical work, exposing homeowners to serious electrical risk.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.