The corporate regulator has delivered a new caution to consumers as reports of misconduct rise 20 per cent.
In a statement, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) executive director for assessment and intelligence, Warren Day, revealed that the current economic uncertainty – thanks 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.”
He said ASIC had recently seen “a spike in reports of scams related to fake crypto assets (or crypto currencies), term deposits, investments and scams that start via romance sites”.
Scam reports were up 20 per cent across March, April and May in 2020, compared with data from the same months in 2019.
ASIC is particularly concerned about the risk to consumers and investors losing money when buying into fake crypto assets.
According to Mr Day, “Most crypto asset investment opportunities reported to ASIC appear to be outright scams and there is no actual underlying investment.”
Scammers can be difficult to catch, and lost money can be tricky to recover, especially where fraudulent operators are based outside of Australia, ASIC said.
While scams “can take many forms”, the corporate regulator said many financial and investment scams do possess similar traits.
Scammers will often:
ASIC has advised anyone who thinks that they might have been scammed, or that they know someone who has been scammed, to lodge a report of misconduct with ASIC – noting that reports from the public are highly valued.