Seniors among Aussies losing to investment scams
INVESTING plays a key role in building financial security but don't be sucked in by promises to get rich quick. Australians collectively lost $4.3 million each month to investment scams.
The latest report by Scamwatch shows that so far in 2018, more than $26 million has been siphoned off by crooks in investment scams - and we're only halfway through the year! Each week the ACCC receives fresh rounds of stories from people who have lost hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars to con artists.
Australians aged 4 to 64 are most at risk. That's probably because these households have the funds to invest, and are most likely to be looking for ways to fast-track a retirement nest egg. But none of us are immune.
The vast majority of investment scams involve mainstream assets like shares, real estate or commodities. The ACCC says scammers cold call their victims claiming to be a stock broker or investment portfolio manager, offering a hot tip or inside information about an investment that will supposedly skyrocket in value.
For the record, trading shares on the back of inside information is illegal, yet the scammers claim they are offering low-risk prospects with quick and high returns.
Cryptocurrency trading scams have seen a big uptick over the past year. It's easy to spot them because the con artists will say they have inside knowledge on price movements. But the ACCC says if you invest your money, it will quickly disappear along with the scammer.
The crooks behind these schemes know how to groom their victims. They use all the right language, offer links to professional looking websites and provide bogus documents to appear legitimate. In many cases, it's only when people try to cash out their investment that they realise they've been scammed and their money is gone forever.
It can hard to pick whether someone you're speaking with is legitimate or a fraudster. The clearest warning signs you're dealing with a scammer is how they contact you and the promises they make. Be wary of offers that appear out of the blue either by email, text message or a phone call.
The alarm bells should also start ringing if you're hit with a hard sell that involves claims like 'risk-free', 'low risk/high return', or anything that smacks of 'get rich quick'. Listen to your gut instinct. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Stay up to date with the latest scams with regular visits to the Scamwatch website. It's an easy way to know what to be on the lookout for. If you think you've been fleeced by a fraudster contact the Australian Securities and Investments Commission immediately.
Paul Clitheroe is Chairman of InvestSMART, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.