In 2020 Australians reported over 7,000 investment scams to Scamwatch, well up on the 5,000 reported in 2019.
Scamwatch recorded investment scam losses of $65.8 million, but add in notifications made to other government agencies and the major banks and reported losses across 2020 soared to $328 million. Due to embarrassment many losses go unreported so we may never know the full extent of the damage.
Now, in 2021, we are all witnessing an influx in lockdown scams. Whether you have received a text regarding a voicemail that has been left or have a text about a parcel delivery, it is important to be powered with the knowledge on how to detect these scams and not fall for their trap.
We are here to advise on different scams and how you can protect yourself from the scammers.
Ignore unsolicited offers
Most investment scams start with a phone call. No matter how compelling the story told by the caller, if you haven’t done anything to invite contact from an investment’s promoter, it is likely to be a scam. The simple solution? Hang up early in the call. If the approach is made by e-mail, social media or text message don’t click on any links and delete the message.
Don’t click the links
As many of you have seen, a lot of scams begin with a text or email prompting you to click on a link. Whether it is to listen to a voicemail or to view your parcel tracking, if you do not recognise where they originated from, or you feel somewhat suspicious – don’t click the link. Trust your gut, as you may fall victim to a scam.
Research the promoter through independent and official channels
Are they based overseas? This is a big red flag. If Australian, are they (and their prospectus) registered with ASIC? Do they have an Australian Financial Services Licence? Do they appear on the list of companies you should not deal with (available at moneysmart.gov.au)? Is their street address genuine and do they have a physical office? How long have they been in business?
Get independent advice before investing
Even with a legitimate investment an independent assessment is a good idea. With a questionable investment it might just save you from being scammed.
Scams are evolving all the time. Government websites moneysmart.gov.au and scamwatch.gov.au provide information on a wide range of scams and are updated as new scams appear. They also provide advice on how you can protect yourself.
What can you do if you’re the victim of a scam?
You can make a report via the Scamwatch website (operated by ACCC), to ASIC and to your local police. Stop sending money to the scammer, and beware of the double sting where scammers offer to help you recover your losses, for a fee, of course.
While ASIC and ACCC do not provide direct assistance to scam victims, the information can help with investigation and law enforcement, and provide intelligence on scam activity. Police may also be limited in their ability to identify and prosecute scammers, particularly if they are located overseas. The sad fact is that most victims of scams never see their money again.
Practical help is available from IDCARE. This is a free support service that can assist businesses and individuals with a range of cyber issues including identity theft, romance scams and investment scams.