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Monday 21 May 2018

18-145MR Scammers turn up the heat on Australian investors

During National Scams Awareness Week (21 – 25 May), ASIC is warning investors to be on high alert to investment scams. Figures released today from the ACCC's Targeting Scams Report show that investment scams have replaced romance and dating scams as the most lucrative method of fraud.

'Reports to ASIC about investment scams in 2017 show that $4.9 million was lost by investors, with an average loss of $82,973,' said ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell.

In one case reported to ASIC, a complainant lost $1.2 million to criminals operating from overseas.

'Offshore cold-calling is the most common type of investment scam, where a compelling investment offer is delivered by someone who will then back up the pitch with a slick website, fake research and insistent follow-up calls,’ Mr Kell said.

The Targeting Scams Report shows that 2017 was a busy year for scammers. The ACCC's Scamwatch website took details of $31.3 million lost to scammers peddling sophisticated investment scams, 33% more than was reported in 2016. The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network reported investment scams that led to $33.2 million in losses.

In these scams Australians are targeted by unlicensed entities in most cases offering investment opportunities or offers of credit.

'In one case reported to ASIC a retired widow invested $450,000 in overseas listed companies before a relative became aware of the story and alerted ASIC,' said Mr Kell.

'In another case a woman lost her life savings after dealing with an offshore investment broker who was introduced by a close friend. The best defence against these scams is simply to hang up,' said Mr Kell.

ASIC posts details of overseas entities that investors should not deal with on the MoneySmart website, along with a list of fake exchanges and fake regulators that have been created by scammers to legitimise their false claims.

Consumers can easily check a caller's legitimacy, Mr Kell said, by seeing if they appear on the Companies You Should Not Deal With list.

To check the offer is not a scam the person offering the investment should be able to tell you: the name of the company they represent, their address, who owns the company and whether the company or scheme has an Australian financial services licence or an Australian credit licence (which can be checked on ASIC's Professional Register).

Last year, 45 new entities were added to ASIC's Companies You Should Not Deal With list, which attracted 117,000 unique visitors in 2017.

Although offshore-based unlicensed operators are beyond ASIC's jurisdiction the regulator works with financial institutions in Australia to block transfers to scammers' overseas accounts.

ASIC's MoneySmart website has useful guidance for investors on how to avoid investment scams.

Background

ASIC is the lead Australian Government agency for financial literacy, consistent with its strategic priority and statutory objective to promote confident and informed consumers and investors. ASIC's financial capability program includes:

  • leading the National Financial Literacy Strategy;
  • providing consumer information via ASIC's MoneySmart; and
  • delivering ASIC's MoneySmart Teaching program.

The National Financial Literacy Strategy, led and coordinated by ASIC, is a framework to guide policies, program and activities that aim to strengthen Australians' financial capability.

Last updated: 21/05/2018 12:00