With scams constantly reaching new heights each and every year, scam research reports are being regularly published every few years. The main focus of these reports is to expose common investment scams along with the scam’s targeted victims.
One of the fastest growing financial scam today is investment fraud. It appears that it is fast becoming a much more serious problem compared to before and seems to be quite organised in comparison to most other financial scams and crimes. To help consumers learn about and recognise investment fraud scams, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission* publishes the latest statistics on Targeting Scams, with the most recent report being published in May 2017.
What Are the Report’s Findings?
The report unveils that men over the age of 50 are the primary targets of investment scams in recent years. In 2016 alone, the ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network) received approximately 200,000 scam reports with investment scams accounting for a high percentage of reported losses with 38% reporting actual financial loss.
ACORN believes the number is probably much higher than that due to the fact that a lot of victims do not report scams, or they may report to other agencies. In Australia alone, the average amount of financial fraud (including credit cards) amounts to an estimated amount of $3 billion each year.
Scamwatch found that approximately 45% of the scams reported to them were by Australian males aged 55 years and older. However, it is important to note that targeting Australians above the ages of 50 – 55 years is not a new trend. However, the startling trends discovered are the percentage of males that are victims of investment and financial scams.
Intriguingly, the report also revealed that of those targeted males, most were highly educated and were considered to have been quite literate, financially speaking. The common 55 plus male victim is usually the one that is more confident and comfortable with managing their own super accounts as well.
Reports published over the years have also shown that since 2012, superannuation savings are a major target for scammers. Fraudsters are typically organisations that operate outside of Australia and use email, telephone, and even aggressive and high pressure strategies and tactics to take people’s money.
They often appear as reputable companies using reputable names, only they use these organisations and names as a front in order to trick consumers into trustingly handing over their money. Once they have their money, their website disappears and so do the fraudsters, never to be found again.
*Source: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
Who Else Is a Target?
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC)** also released a report in 2012 regarding investment and superannuation fraud and found the following list to be the most likely victims:
Middle Aged Persons to Seniors
As previously mentioned, the most common targeted age group is usually victims over the age of 50 to 55 years old.
While males in general are major targets, males over the age of 50 are their primary targets.
Small Business Owners
As if small business owners don’t already have their financial challenges, they are unfortunately also high on the targeted victims list. They are generally targeted online due to their lack of infrastructure and network security.
Often, self-funded retirees already have investments and savings and most likely their information was compromised. However, some retirees in this groups fall for common scams.
People Who Have Already Made Investments
The main targeted groups in this category are anyone who is financially literate and males who are considered to be financially literate as well.
Anyone on Shareholder Registers
Information is commonly compromised and used to take money from the shareholder.
Individuals Who Are Socially Isolated
This could be anyone who is isolated geographically or in any way.
The interesting thing about this group is that it includes those who have a high level of computer literacy along with individuals who have done their homework and feel a certain level of assurance with the preventative research they have conducted.
Potential targets of investment fraud include:
Australians Near the End of Their Careers
Australians who may be looking for any additional ways to create additional income to help support them in their retirement years are potential targets due to feeling financially insecure as they transition out of the workforce and into retirement. New retirees and those already in retirement are also potential targets.
Anyone Who Has Invested Before and Has High Financial Awareness
Individuals falling into this category remain a primary target.
Males Over 50
While Australian males are highly targeted, all Australians should be aware of the different scams happening and alert family and friends when possible because chances are, fraudsters will be making their rounds and some may have personal details of people associated with their targeted victims.
Another fact that the ACC reported on this was that many victims of serious investment fraud are usually embarrassed about their loss and are therefore unwilling to report their loss. The unwillingness to report any type of fraud, especially serious fraud, often causes victims additional problems and issues in their personal life.
**Source: Australian Crime Commission (ACC)
Where and When Does Investment Fraud Actually Begin?
The same 2012 report previously cited also states that scammers typically convince Australians that are financially literate to invest money with them by grooming them through the use of technology. The potential investor (victim) is groomed over time – normally over a period of weeks and sometimes months through personal, regular contact.
Below is a list of common scams:
- Signing up for “free prizes” or “offers”.
- Entering contests.
- Names on mailing lists.
- Patients who have undergone an operation or medical treatments of any kind.
- Donating money to charity.
- Shopping by phone or online.
- Registering on any sites on the internet.
- Buying stocks, bonds, or making any types of investments.
- Buying Insurance.
- Previous victims.
- Anyone about to retire or turn 65.
- Moving scams.
- Major purchases.
- Requesting more information about an advertisement.
- A major event such as an engagement, a marriage, graduation, death of a family member, or birth of a child.
How to Prevent Investment Scams
There are a lot of different ways to prevent being the victim of investment fraud. One of the best ways to avoid getting caught in a trap or scam is to really think things through. If it feels out of the norm or strange, it most likely is. Collect all details from the company before making any final decisions and do your research. You don’t want your life savings to be hinged on a last-minute decision or a decision you aren’t entirely sure about.
If the company is overseas, hang up and never look back. If the company claims to be associated with an institution or bank you currently deal with, you should again take down all of their information such as name, telephone number, business name, how they are associated with your bank, any licensing, along with their website address, and call your bank to verify the details with them. If the information doesn’t check out, then report it to the proper authorities right away.
A financial organisation that contacts you claiming to help with your investments should have an Australia Financial Services Licence (AFSL). You can learn about this at moneysmart.gov.au. Ask for proof of licencing and if they are not forthcoming about providing it, chances are they do not have it.
Scammers will most likely hang up because they know they cannot provide proof of licencing or they may still do what they can to talk you into handing over your money. They are cunning and will do what they can to convince you by using their words and tactics to get you to trust them, even if your gut feeling tells you that you cannot trust them. When in doubt, always seek out a professional, second opinion before making any investment decisions.
Legitimate investments are often well-disguised. Nine times out of ten, your bank or current investment company wouldn’t contact you by phone or mail for additional offers, unless you opted into a marketing list from their defined partners. However, no matter who contacts you, it’s important to be 100% sure.
Fraudulent scams are not going anywhere due to the fact that so many Australians continue to fall prey to them. If someone other than your financial advisor on the Sunshine Coast contacts you about your investment accounts, get as much information as you can and contact your advisor right away for a second opinion.