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Investment scam warning after record losses reported

Investment scam warning after record losses reporteda pen writing on a check

Almost one million dollars in investment fraud losses were reported to WA ScamNet in the last month – a higher amount than was reported for the whole of last year ($198,600).

According to Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll, ‘Project Sunbird’ is responsible for identifying record levels of investment fraud loss – increasing from a monthly average of about $16,500 reported investment fraud loss in 2012 to $964,400 in April 2013 alone.

“The joint anti-fraud initiative between us and WA Police Major Fraud Squad has resulted in victims coming forward to a dedicated team working out of WA ScamNet; either because they have received letters or because they have heard about ‘Project Sunbird’ through the media,” she said.

The Commissioner said there was worrying trend of investment fraud victims recruiting friends or acquaintances in to dodgy schemes, or borrowing money from loved ones.

“We have a situation in the Wheatbelt for example where an investment fraud victim who, despite Project Sunbird intervention, cannot accept he is being conned. The victim has taken about $127,000 from at least four other people by convincing them they will get a return on their investment.

“Anyone looking to invest should only do so through someone who holds an Australian Financial Services licence. You can check via the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website www.asic.gov.au. It is also advisable to review the Investment section at ASIC’s www.moneysmart.gov.au.”

Detective Senior Sergeant Dom Blackshaw from WA Police Major Fraud Squad said organised criminals are using a number of tactics in these investment frauds.

“The victim may be targeted online and once the fraudsters have built up a relationship and gained the victim’s trust they will present the fake investment opportunity, which could relate to land, gold or other commodities.

“Fake documents may be sent and we have even seen credit cards in the victim’s name with money able to be withdrawn, although it’s likely the victim is simply withdrawing money already stolen from them.”

DSS Blackshaw said tracking down these offenders can prove extremely difficult.

“Often investment fraud victims only have websites they have used to monitor their investments or they’ve been given updates via email or phone. Usually they have sent money via wire transfer overseas which makes it difficult to track the receiver.

“When the fake companies become un-contactable, the websites disappear, email accounts are shut down and phone numbers are cut off. The only evidence of the scam is the victim and their depleted bank account.”

DSS Blackshaw reiterated previous warnings that Western Australians should not travel overseas to meet online connections offering investment opportunities.

“We have heard of investment fraud victims travelling and putting themselves in dangerous situations; from someone who went to Singapore to be shown medical equipment; to a man who went to Kuala Lumpur to view the chemical washing of money that had been dyed black and a person who travelled to the Netherlands to view cash in a bank vault. These scenarios are inevitably part of the elaborate extortion plan.”

Read online for more information about Project Sunbird, tips to avoid fraud and a factsheet for victims.

Anyone who wants to talk to WA ScamNet about a suspected scam/fraud can do so by calling 1300 30 40 54 or emailing wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au