Australia sees losses due to investment scams jump 299% in one week

Maria Nikolova

The week from July 9th to July 15th saw Australians report $954,308 in financial losses due to investment scams, data from Scamwatch shows.

The first half of July may be a slow period for many companies and institutions but not for fraudsters, as indicated by the latest data revealed by Scamwatch, the body operated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The numbers, published earlier today, show that Australians reported massive $954,308 being lost to investment scams in just one week – the one to July 15, 2018. This amount of losses represents a 299% increase on the preceding week, Scamwatch explains.

The most recent data adds to gloom from reports about scam activities in the first half of 2018, when Australians lost $26,378,380 due to investment fraud. The number of reports reached 1,796 in the first six months of the year. The month with record losses due to such scams was May ($5.8 million reported lost), whereas June saw a slight decline with the amount lost last month being $4.55 million.

Those aged between 25 and 34 were most active in reporting being victims of investment fraud, whereas those reporting the biggest losses were those from 45 to 54 years of age.

A type of investment fraud that has been gaining momentum in Australia involves cryptocurrencies. Earlier in 2018, Consumer Affairs Victoria, a business unit of the Department of Justice & Regulation, within the Victorian government, warned about Bitcoin scams. Victoria’s consumer regulator said it had received reports of people being defrauded through fake Bitcoin websites. The average amount lost is not that large – around $300, but the body sees this type of fraud as worrisome.

Let’s recall that digital currency exchanges have been required to apply for registration with AUSTRAC since April 3, 2018.

AUSTRAC has warned that businesses must not use their registration status in any way that suggests AUSTRAC or the Commonwealth Government endorses them or any of their services or products. Words including ‘endorsed’, ‘approved’ or ‘licensed’ are examples of inappropriate wording. The new requirements stem from the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Act 2017, also known as the “Bitcoin bill”. In December last year, the legislative piece passed both Houses and got Royal Assent.

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