Over the last year, Australian losses to investment scams have doubled to an incredible $24.4 million – in 2015, six individual investment scam victims lost more than $1 million each, according to the latest scams report issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Taking Australia’s current low interest rate environment into account, scammers are preying on “semi-retired and retired people who are actively seeking investments with higher returns,” Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the ACCC reports.
One particular individual was kind enough to share her experience of a call she’d received from a person allegedly acting on behalf of the tax office – she was unable to reach the phone at the time and so the scammer was kind enough to leave her a voicemail message… with a very un-Australian accent:
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“This is the Taxation Office,
The reason I have tried to reach you is to let you know that there is a legal lawsuit against you concerning some tax fraud as there is a known warrant issued against you by the court house. If you need some further information regarding your case file, I may suggest you call me back as soon as possible. The number you can reach me on is 0341000110. I’m gonna repeat my number, 0341000110. Don’t disregard this message.
The matter is very serious. If I don’t hear a call from you, the only thing I can do is I’m going to send one of the police officers to your address to serve you the legal court notice along with the warrant for your arrest. I’m going to repeat my phone number: 0341000110.
Goodbye and have a pleasant day.”
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Despite investment and fake romance scams accounting for just 3.7% of the 105,200 scams reported to the ACCC, the two were responsible for more than 50% of the total $84.9 million lost to scammers.
As per the statistics we released only two weeks ago, the most affected age groups are still those over the age of 65. The ACCC has tried several methods of encouragement to help the aging population better understand the risks and dangers they face when they engage with fraudsters on the phone, by email and over the internet.
Dating and Romance Scams are still a top player in the scam race though, with fraudsters netting in a whopping $23 million last year… that’s 20% less than the previous year, which, along with the increase in investment scams, suggests that scammers are wising up to the increase in fake romance vigilance.
Ruth Robertson, a well-known, 64-year-old artist from Victoria, fell victim to a romance scam after her marriage of 25 years broke down. In her case, she met an Australian construction engineer on the dating site, Be2.com.au in August and, by October of the same year, she had already transferred over $25,000 to his overseas accounts. The man even asked for the deed of her cottage home.
Ms Robertson became aware of the scam after the man asked her to tape $200,000 to her body and fly out to Malaysia.
Ruth never met the man in person – all of their interactions were only online and occasionally by phone, and she recalls how he acted: “His declaration of love was relentless, calling and emailing me day and night […] I look back now and bang my head against the wall. But I became vulnerable and I was dealing with a psychopath saying all the right things.”
Her advice to others in a similar position, or likely to become victims of dating scams is simple: “If you meet them online and they try to take it offline very quickly, that’s one warning, and the other is they start to invest feelings very quickly.”
The average loss to a dating scam, as reported by the ACCC is roughly $26,000 per victim. Of the 886 dating scam victims who lost money in 2015, 153 reported losses between $10,000 and $100,000, with 53 reporting losses exceeding $100,000.
Please be careful when dealing with any unknown parties on the internet, by phone, by email and even by post – always research the claims that people make before giving in to their demands, regardless of how authoritarian or pushy they may be.
The Australian Tax Office will never ask for payment details over the phone, nor will they call you to inform you of crimes you may have committed. If in doubt, simply tell the person you’re speaking to that you will call the ATO in a few minutes to double-check everything as you simply cannot talk at the moment… and then ask for their number. As such, if and when you do then call the ATO, please help them to spread the word of the potential scam by sharing the details of your encounter with them.
Dating and romance scams are much the same, and the advice against it too – just because you can see a photo of someone doesn’t mean that that is who you are really dealing with. If in doubt, and the situation permits, ask the person you’re speaking to to send you a video or even have a skype call at some point. If they really are interested in you and you express your concerns of scams, they should ultimately understand and appreciate those concerns.
Precise Investigation has been successfully helping Australian businesses and individuals across the country to protect themselves against the risks of scams and fraud and, in some cases, we can even help victims to recover their losses. We’re one of Australia’s leading private investigation firms, making a name for ourselves through our ongoing commitment to client satisfaction, tangible results and dedication to the cases we undertake. If you’re ever in need of some professional assistance in combating crime, gathering evidence or avoiding fraud, please:
Call Precise Investigation today on 1300 856 011 for a professional private investigation service.
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