THE OLD SAYING GOES: IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians have been scammed out of more than $78 million dollars so far this year, based on data reported to them by scam victims.
Of that figure, $37 million dollars was lost to investment scams, with a staggering $12.8 million of those losses occurring in July alone.
THE ACCC HAS A FEW ‘TELL TALE SIGNS’ WHEN IT COMES TO SPOTTING A SCAM:
Communication is key
Scammers love to cold call. If you receive an unsolicited communication (phone call, email, text message) from someone you’ve never heard of before, offering you a (sometimes very legitimate sounding) deal, take that as a huge warning sign.
The fact that you have never had any dealings with them previously, yet they have managed to obtain your contact details should raise immediate concerns.
Scammers can also target you through website and social media advertisements, so think twice before clicking on links.
Types of offers presented by scammers can include shares, real estate, options trading or foreign currency trading. Beware of callers saying they are from the ‘Australian Taxation Office’.
Scammers are good at looking good
It’s not uncommon for scammers to employ a range of professional and legitimate looking assets, including flyers, advertisements, prospectus documents, websites and social media profiles.
A professional looking website can go a long way to making an offer seem legitimate. Don’t be fooled by the bells and whistles. Likewise with social media profiles – fake reviews and purchased page likes can easily create a false illusion of legitimacy.
The first thing you should do before considering any kind of investment activity is confirm the organisation has a current Australian Financial Services license, you can do this through the ASIC website. You should also check ASIC’s list of Companies you should not deal with.
Anything that claims to be risk free, promises high returns or offers a simple way to unlock your superannuation should be treated with an extremely high degree of suspicion and caution.
Make sure you don’t give any personal information to the scammer. Delete the email or hang up the phone call.
Don’t commit before seeking independent professional legal or financial advice.
Don’t commit under pressure. If the offer must be acted upon immediately and they try to convince you that you do not have time to seek independent advice, your suspicions should be raised.
If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, you can report it to the ACCC.
You should inform your financial institutions if you have given your bank details to scammers.
More information on how to protect yourself from scams can be found on the ACCC website.
ALWAYS TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL
Seeking advice from a Certified Financial Planner is the best way to safeguard you from investment scams.