The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) reminds consumers to stay informed and protect themselves against investment scams.
Scamwatch, the website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), shows Australians lost nearly $300 million to investment scams in 2016. This was a 47% increase in scam reports to the ACCC compared to 2015. Scams targeting Indigenous peoples nearly doubled.
ASIC Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said scammers are increasingly using online methods to reach Australian investors and take advantage of them. An increase in online scams of 130% over the previous year reflects an increase in both email and social media scams. The scammers also operate through unsolicited phone calls.
Mr Kell said many of the scams target gamblers, offering to sell expensive software that is supposed to help you pick winners in sports or in share trading.
“These investment scams can come across as very professional and are often supported by sophisticated and genuine looking websites and social media advertising,” he warns. The best way to avoid being a victim is to hang up the phone, and don't respond to the emails.
There are a number of ways you can check whether a company is legitimate. You can ask for the number of the company's Australian financial services licence (AFSL) or Australian credit licence (ACL), and check the number on ASIC's Professional Registers. If they refuse to answer these questions, hang up the phone.
Block them on social media platforms, so they cannot contact you or your contacts. Delete or remove ads for financial products from your social feed.
Often the scammers will try to force a quick decision from you, by claiming the offer is only for a limited time, or for a limited number of people. Sometimes they will even threaten legal action, but this is a bluff.
The Scamwatch website www.scamwatch.gov.au contains information about many scams and how to deal with them. ASIC's MoneySmart website at www.moneysmart.gov.au/scams/investment-scams is also helpful.
You can report investment scams to ASIC online or by calling 1300 300 630.