Australian regulator explains how to spot a crypto scam

Rick Steves

“When Australians fall victim to scams the cost is often more than purely financial. Scams cause emotional stress and can impact relationships.”

Australia’s Big Four banks risk losing AUS$13 billion

The Australian financial watchdog has released a statement, in support of Scams Awareness Week, that warns retail investors of the key signs of a crypto scam.

Scams Awareness Week is an annual campaign that aims to reduce the impact of scams by helping consumers identify and avoid scams.

Fake crypto apps, fake crypto tokens and jobs, and payment scams

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said crypto scams fall into three broad categories, including:

  • scams where you think you’re investing in a genuine asset but it’s a fake crypto exchange, website or app;
  • fake crypto tokens (used to steal your crypto assets), and jobs trading crypto that look legitimate at first glance (but are really money laundering using crypto); or
  • scams that use crypto-assets to make a payment.

ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said: “Australians lost more than $701 million to investment scams in 2021, up 135% from the previous year and these scams are continuing to increase. The main driver of the increase was cryptocurrency investment scams, where losses increased by 270%. The ACCC have advised that losses to crypto scams have increased further in 2022. Given this concerning trend, we want to arm Australians with the information they need to protect themselves from scammers.”

ASIC investigators have identified the the top 10 signs of a likely crypto scam:

  • You receive an offer out of the blue
  • You see a celebrity advertisement that is actually a fake
  • A romantic partner you only know on-line asks for money in crypto
  • You get pressured into transferring crypto from your current exchange to another website
  • You’re asked to pay for a financial service with crypto
  • The app you’re using or directed to isn’t listed on the Google Play Store or Apple Store
  • You need to pay more to access your money
  • You are ‘guaranteed’ returns, or free money
  • Strange tokens appear in your digital wallet
  • The provider withholds investment earnings ‘for tax purposes’

Sarah Court, ASIC’s Deputy Chair, also gave advice on what to do when consumers get scammed.

“If you think you’ve been the victim of a crypto scam, it’s important to act quickly. Draw a line under it. Don’t send any more money. Block all contact from the scammer. Do not delay. Contact your bank or financial institution immediately to report the scam. Ask them to stop any transactions. Also, warn your family and friends so they can watch out for potential follow-up scams. When Australians fall victim to scams the cost is often more than purely financial. Scams cause emotional stress and can impact relationships”, said the regulator’s Deputy Chair.

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