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What does an investment scam look like?

Financial scams are often extremely sophisticated, featuring fake platforms, websites, phone lines and social media accounts. They can appear very legitimate, with scammers posing as financial professionals or ‘experts’. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • The scammer may contact you repeatedly, encouraging you to make a quick decision or risk losing out.
  • They may offer you quick returns, or a ‘no risk’ investment opportunity.
  • Hot stock market tips or ‘inside information’ about shares that are going to increase in value are also common.
  • Other scams involve invitations to investment seminars, or the ability to gain early access to your superannuation.[2]

Victims are most commonly contacted by phone, email or online. Scammers may also reach out to you on social media, or by text message. On social media they may pose as someone you know, or are connected to. They may post messages about ‘hot investment opportunities’ as comments on social media posts or in online forums.

Most people who lose money do so through bank transfers, which are impossible to recover. However, losses via cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and other digital forms of payment are increasing, with $50 million lost last year.

How can I avoid being taken in by an investment scam?

Scammers are professionals and work very hard to convince you of their scam. So how can you validate whether an opportunity is legitimate?

You should never to deal with people soliciting your money over the phone or by email.

Professional advisers will meet with you and (are required to) present their advice in a written Statement of Advice

Always start by checking the adviser is on the Financial Adviser’s Register and licensed to give advice. This is the absolute minimum that you need to do if you intend to have dealings with a financial adviser.

Before handing over any funds or personal details, you should always:

  1. Ask the name of the person you’re speaking with, the name and address of their company, and whether the investment scheme is registered with ASIC.
  2. Check the Financial Advisers Register on the Moneysmart website to see if the person you’re speaking with is authorised to provide financial advice.
  3. Ask for the company’s Australian Financial Service licence number and verify it by checking the ASIC Connect Professional Registers.
  4. Check ASIC Connect to see if an investment scheme is registered with ASIC. Investment schemes (generally those with more than 20 members) must be registered with ASIC and will have an Australian Registered Scheme Number that you can search.
  5. You can also check the list of unlicensed companies you should not deal with on Moneysmart.

To avoid becoming a target in the first place, be vigilant about your online (and offline) security. Don’t open emails or accept friend requests online from people you don’t know. Don’t respond to messages about investment opportunities left in comments or in forums.

Always seek independent financial advice from a financial planning professional like one at the SWU Group before making any investments.

What should I do if I’ve been scammed?

If you think you’ve been the victim of an investment scam, you can lodge a report of misconduct with ASIC.

If scammers have your credit card or bank account details, contact your bank or financial institution straight away. In some cases, they may be able to freeze a transaction or reverse charges fraudulently added to your credit card.

You can also report fraud and theft to your local police on 131 444.

You should also report the scam to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, who work to monitor and disrupt scams where possible.

You may also want to seek the support of a health professional, counsellor or someone you trust. For counselling and support in a crisis, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au.

Ultimately, if an investment opportunity seems ‘too good to be true’ it probably is. Always seek independent financial advice from a financial planning professional like one at the SWU Group before investing your hard earned funds.