INVESTMENT scams are the latest fraud the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning Australians about.
New statistics show we’re collectively losing $4.3 million per month to these sorts of scams – and more than $26 million has been reported lost this year already.
“The losses to investment scams are horrific,” the commission’s deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“Each week the ACCC receives heartbreaking accounts of people losing hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars.”
Already loses haven risen to 117 per cent more compared to 2017.
"Last year, Australians reported they lost $64.6 million to investment scams to Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN). If the current trend continues, combined losses reported to Scamwatch and ACORN in 2018 could be in excess of $100 million,” Ms Rickard said.
“These scams are very sophisticated and the scammers are very convincing. People aged 45–64 are most at risk and make up more than half the reports sent to Scamwatch.”
These scams are usually centered around investment markets like stocks, real estate or commodities, but crytocurrency and binary options frauds are also on the rise.
Scammers often cold call victims, claiming to be a stoke broker or investment portfolio manager, and offer a hot tip or inside information on a low-risk investment that will provide quick returns.
“Scammers will spend significant time and effort grooming their victims to invest,” Ms Rickard said.
“They will use the right technical language and also offer professional looking websites and documents to convince victims they are legitimate. It’s often only when people try to cash out their investment that they realise their money is gone.”
How to spot a scammer
It can be difficult to spot a scammer, but the the clearest warning sign is how they contact you and the promises they make.
“If someone calls, emails or texts you out of the blue with investment advice, don’t engage with them no matter how legitimate they sound,” Ms Rickard said.
“Hang up the phone, or delete the email or text. If you’re searching for new investment opportunities online, don’t always trust what you read. It’s easy for scammers to create professional looking investment websites.
“Any claims like 'risk-free investment', ‘low risk, high return’, 'be a millionaire in three years', or 'get-rich quick' are also easy tells that you’re dealing with a scammer.”