With the cost of living rising, Aussies are looking everywhere for ways to make their money work for them, but the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a stark warning to those looking at investing.
Losses to imposter bond-investment scams have nearly tripled in the first half of this year, with consumers losing more than $20 million so far.
Imposter bond scams usually impersonate real financial companies or banks and claim to offer government/Treasury bonds or fixed-term deposits.
People often fell victim to them after searching online for investment opportunities and completing enquiry forms via fake third-party comparison sites, the ACCC said.
The latest Scamwatch data revealed there were 228 reports of imposter bond scams between January and June, compared with 82 reports in the first half of last year.
Losses suffered by victims of imposter bond scams increased by 265 per cent in the first half of the year, compared to the same period last year.
However, the true losses to these scams were likely to be much higher, the ACCC warned, as research showed only around 13 per cent of scam victims reported their losses to Scamwatch.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in imposter bond scams, so we are urging Australians to be very cautious when presented with investment opportunities,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“As interest rates rise, people looking to invest in bonds are falling victim to these scams after searching online for investment opportunities.
“This is often after they complete enquiry forms on fake third-party comparison websites.”
Rickard said the comparison websites often appeared very convincing, tricking victims into providing their details.
“Convinced they are making a long-term, legitimate investment, it’s common for victims to deposit larger sums upfront and not check their account for months before realising they were scammed,” Rickard said.
More than half of those who reported losses to imposter bond scams were first contacted by phone, accounting for $11 million in losses.
“It’s critical to independently verify the financial institution or bank issuing the bonds by calling the bank or financial service directly, using details you have sourced yourself - rather than using any phone numbers or links provided,” Rickard said.
“If you seem to have been dealing with someone from the institution, ask to speak to them.”