We all know to cover our PIN from prying eyes and keep a lock on our letterbox. But are we rolling out the welcome mat to scammers targeting our investments?
Australians lost a record $851 million to scams in 2020, with investment scams accounting for the biggest losses, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest Targeting Scams report.
At $328 million, investment scams, were a third of the total losses. Romance scams were the next highest category ($131 million) followed by payment redirection scams ($128 million).
Remote access scams, where a scammer takes over someone’s home computer and gains access to their bank accounts, are on the rise. The scammer poses as someone from organisations such as Telstra, eBay, NBN Co, Amazon, banks, government organisations, police, and computer and IT support organisations.
So far in 2021 Australians have lost $7.2 million via remote access scams, a 184 per cent increase on the same period in 2020. One of the best ways to protect yourself from scammers is to be attuned to their tactics.
Here are five tell-tale signs a scammer may have your investments in their sights.
Getting calls from someone claiming to be a stockbroker or portfolio manager who wants to give you advice on investments? Typical tactics include: keeping you on the phone for a long time or trying to transfer you to a senior manager. They will also create a sense of FOMO. The investments might be shares, mortgages, or real estate high-return schemes; options trading or foreign currency trading. The scammer generally operates from overseas and will not have an Australian Financial Services licence.
If a stranger sends an email offering advice on the share price of a particular company, look out. The scammer is usually trying to inflate the share price so they can sell out and make a big profit. The share price will plummet, leaving you with large losses.
Too good to be true claims
Be wary of seminars or advertisements offering a ‘risk-free investment’; or a strategy for becoming ‘a millionaire in three years´; or a scheme to ‘get rich quick’.
Tread carefully if you get an invitation to a free seminar but there are high fees to attend any further sessions. The scammer, posing as the promoter, may offer you a loan to cover both the cost of your attendance at the additional seminars and investments.
Red flags? Anyone selling investments or property without letting you seek independent advice and promoters trying to reel you in with promises of guaranteed rent or discounts for buying off the plan.
Unlock your super
Alarm bells should ring if an advertisement promises a quick and easy way to ‘unlock’ your superannuation early. Scammers may ask you to agree to a story to ensure the early release of your money and then acting as your financial adviser they will trick your super fund into paying out your benefits directly to them.
They may take large ‘fees’ out of the released money or leave you with nothing.
If you're ever unsure, please get in touch with your financial adviser.