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5 tips to protect yourself from being scammed

In 2020 Australians made more than 216,000 reports to Scamwatch and reported losses of around $178 million. By the end of September 2021, Australians had lost even more: Scamwatch received more than 226,000 reports with reported losses of over $222 million.

As alarming as these numbers are, we know that around one third of people who are scammed never tell anyone, so the true numbers are probably much higher.

With a high likelihood that we will all be targeted by scammers at some stage, perhaps repeatedly, how can we identify scams and protect ourselves from losses?

Ignore unsolicited offers

Most investment scams start with a phone call. No matter how compelling the story told by the caller, if you haven’t done anything to invite contact from an investment’s promoter, it is likely to be a scam. The simple solution? Hang up early in the call. If the approach is made by e-mail, social media or text message don’t click on any links and delete the message.

Beware of promises of large and guaranteed returns

In times of low interest rates it’s hard to find a good return on lower risk investments such as term deposits and bonds. The promise of high returns, perhaps with a built in guarantee may look compelling. But the age old saying holds: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Some investors are willing to put such promises to the test by making a small investment. When professional looking statements show that the promised performance is being delivered, the investor makes a much larger deposit. Not long after that the promoter seemingly disappears.

Research the promoter through independent and official channels

Are they based overseas? This is a big red flag. If Australian, are they (and their prospectus) registered with ASIC? Do they have an Australian Financial Services Licence? Do they appear on the list of companies you should not deal with (available at moneysmart.gov.au)? Is their street address genuine and do they have a physical office? How long have they been in business?

Get independent advice before investing

Even with a legitimate investment an independent assessment is a good idea. With a questionable investment it might just save you from being scammed.

Educate yourself

Scams are evolving all the time. Government websites moneysmart.gov.au and scamwatch.gov.au provide information on a wide range of scams and are updated as new scams appear. They also provide advice on how you can protect yourself.

What can you do if you’re the victim of a scam?

You can make a report via the Scamwatch website (operated by ACCC), to ASIC and to your local police. Stop sending money to the scammer, and beware of the double sting where scammers offer to help you recover your losses, for a fee, of course.

While ASIC and ACCC do not provide direct assistance to scam victims, the information can help with investigation and law enforcement, and provide intelligence on scam activity. Police may also be limited in their ability to identify and prosecute scammers, particularly if they are located overseas. The sad fact is that most victims of scams never see their money again.

Practical help is available from IDCARE. This is a free support service that can assist businesses and individuals with a range of cyber issues including identity theft, romance scams and investment scams.

Please contact the TNR team if you have any queries relating to protecting yourself from being scammed.

Important: The information contained in this post / article is not advice. Readers should not act solely on the basis of material contained in this post. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. We recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting on anything contained in this post.