The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) announced this Wednesday that it has seen an uptick in the number of investment scam reports from consumers and investors within Australia during the coronavirus pandemic.
In particular, the Australian regulator said that the number of reports of misconduct it has received from March to May this year has increased by 20 per cent when measured against the same period of the previous year.
Commenting on the rising trend, ASIC Executive Director for Assessment and Intelligence Warren Day said in the statement that economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 has created a perfect storm.
“Australians are at risk of being scammed and losing money, and scammers are using age-old tactics in new and sophisticated ways to target people,” Day outlined. “We are seeing a spike in reports of scams related to fake crypto-assets (or crypto currencies), term deposits, investments and scams that start via romance sites.”
“ASIC is particularly concerned about the risk to consumers and investors losing money when buying into fake crypto-assets. Most crypto-asset investment opportunities reported to ASIC appear to be outright scams and there is no actual underlying investment.”
According to the Australian watchdog, scammers often:
- present a range of investment offers – from modest returns to high returns – that sound safer than they are;
- make persistent requests to continue investing despite no evidence of actual returns on initial investments;
- display fake endorsements from celebrities or government agencies, including ASIC;
- request money be paid to a person or company into multiple or constantly changing bank accounts;
- lure someone via a romance site and direct them to send money or invest in crypto-assets or forex trading.
The report from ASIC follows on the heels of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) publishing a report on Monday that Aussies lost more than AU$634 million (US$435.2 million) to scams during the year – AU$126 million of which was lost to investment scams.