There are reports of Australians losing millions of dollars through fake investment products sold by scammers. These scammers also convince Australians to hand over personal information for identity theft.
How the scam works
The scam lures you to their fake website by getting you to click on ads in Facebook and other social media platforms. The ads work to convince you that they are respected individuals in the community or from popular media programs.
Visitors to the website are asked to set up an overseas online account. When established, a modest initial investment is requested from the account holder – for example, USD$250. The account holder will then receive phone calls from ‘professionals’ convincing them to keep investing more money.
Account-holders are able to log into the account to watch their fake ‘investment’ grow. In reality, there is no investment and the money is instead going into the scammer’s account.
Victims have reported losing tens of thousands of dollars, with several losing hundreds of thousands to the scammers. The duration of this scam is sometimes only a week from creating the account to having their money stolen.
The scam typically also involves requesting:
- Personal information from the account-holder, including passport, driver’s licence, email and bank account details.
- Remote access to the account-holder’s home computer, for example, to set up a digital wallet.
Through remote access to the computer, the scammer can get more personal information for ongoing identity theft.
The scammers can become aggressive when the target doesn’t agree to perform their requests.
How do I stay safe?
- If you’re looking to invest money, do your research first. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has advice on how to keep your investments safe and warning signs to look out for when investing — www.moneysmart.gov.au/investing — as well as a page on companies you should not deal with.
- Do not share your personal, banking or credit card information with people you don’t know or trust, and NEVER give them access to your computer – no matter how legitimate they sound or claim to be.
- Always get independent financial advice before taking action, and talk to trusted family members or friends to get a second opinion.
- Do not hand over any personal details to an investment company unless you have independently verified the legitimacy of the caller.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has more advice on investment scams.
Read more about remote access (or technical support) scams.
If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, act quickly. IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service. For advice, contact them on 1300 432 273 or use their free Cyber First Aid Kit to help you work out what to do.
Find out where to get help if you believe you have become a victim of a scam.