The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has identified the top five types of scams which targeted Aussies in 2015 as losses continue to rise.
Scamwatch data, published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) shows that $85 million was reported lost last year, with 105,200 scam complaints.
An additional $127 million from 25,600 complaints was reported to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) while unreported scam activity is predicted to be around $17.1 million – bringing the total lost to a huge $229 million during 2015.
According to ASIC, the the top five types of scams reported to ASIC in 2015 were:
overseas cold calling about investment opportunities;
overseas calls offering easy credit or loans after payment of an upfront fee;
sports arbitrage or gambling schemes;
money transfer schemes (job opportunity or other fraud);
and fake debt and invoice scams.
ASIC said that the scams it has reported generally come from overseas.
“In many cases, the pitch to consumers is so professional, slick and believable that it is hard to tell these are not genuine financial opportunities. Scammers have sophisticated sales practices that include call scripts, false paperwork, fake websites and made-up referees," ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell said.
Typically, investment and financial scams will offer:
High, quick returns and sometimes tax-free benefits;
Big rewards for what seems a small upfront payment;
Discounts for early bird investors;
'No risk' or 'low risk' investments, where 'you can sell anytime', get a refund for non-performance or have 'guaranteed' transactions;
Inside information or the opportunity to invest before a public float;
'Magic' software that claims to predict sporting results or promises to makes you rich through active share trading.
“Do not send your money overseas for an investment offer that has come out of the blue. It's as simple as that,” Kell warned.
He added that the best thing Aussies can do if they are cold called about an investment is to hang up.
For any Aussies with concerns, ASIC suggests they ask the following questions to confirm their legitimacy:
- What is your name and what company do you represent?
- Who owns your company?
- Does your company or scheme have an Australian Financial Services Licence (ASFL) or an Australian Credit Licence (ACL) and what is the licence number? Check this number on ASIC'sProfessional Registers.
- What is your address?
"If they try to avoid answering these questions, it is a scam. To avoid being a victim of a scam hang up the phone, do not respond to the email or stop dealing with the person. It's important not to let anyone pressure you into making decisions about your money or investments," Kell said.
"And if you do get caught out, don't send good money after bad. We've seen too many people hit a second time with offers to get the money back, often from the same scam operation,” said Kell.
Investors can protect themselves against investment scams by taking time to consider investment opportunities, checking ASIC's MoneySmart website for the list of companies you should not deal with, checking the company's listing on the stock exchange for its current value and recent share performance, checking the company is real by calling their publicly listed phone number and by getting a second opinion from a licensed financial adviser.