According to figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), male investors have lost more than $12 million to scams in the 2017 calendar year to September while female investors have lost just over $6 million.
In August alone, $3.95 million was lost, with the lion’s share coming from phone scams ($1.6 million) or social networking ($1.6 million).
The Baby Boomer generation has been hit hardest, with those between 55 and 64 losing $4.9 million in the eight months to September followed by those aged 45-54 who have lost $3.7 million.
Australian investors between 35 and 44 made the most reports (175) of scams and have lost nearly $3 million, while investors over the age of 65 made 126 reports and lost $2.1 million.
Scamwatch, the Australian government’s scam information service reports that scammers are “increasingly targeting older Australians due to their wealth and limited online experience”.
Romance, unexpected money, phishing and remote access scams are among the most common scams targeting older Australians. However, investor scams can produce “the greatest losses” for older Australians.
“They are often very difficult to spot as they can have a professional website, a client portal, glossy documentation and will point to many satisfied customers,” Scamwatch explained.
“These scams can play out over some time, as fake investments appear to grow. Many seasoned investors have been caught out by these scams as they are highly sophisticated and victims are pressured to make quick decisions.”
The most common types of investment scams include:
Cold calls, which usually feature share, mortgage or real estate high-return schemes or options or foreign currency trading.
Hot tips, wherein the victim is encouraged to buy shares in a company that is almost guaranteed to increase in value. The victim is encouraged to act quickly, however once the shares have been purchased and the price of the stock has been boosted, the scammer sells his or her shares at a profit. The victim is often left with large losses or shares that are “virtually worthless”.
Investment seminars see scammers make money by charging attendance fees, selling reports that are overpriced and are designed to convince investors to buy into high risk investment strategies on risky terms with no independent advice.
“The investments on offer are generally overvalued and you may end up having to pay fees and commissions that the promoters did not tell you about. High pressure sales tactics or false and misleading claims are often used to pressure you into investing, such as guaranteed rent or discounts for buying-off-the-plan. If you invest there is a high chance you will lose money,” Scamwatch warned.
Superannuation scams offer early access to funds held in superannuation accounts. Super funds can only be accessed when the required age is met – between 55 and 60 depending on the year of birth – or in exceptional circumstances like financial hardship. According to Scamwatch, these scams can come from a financial adviser, or someone posing as one.