Police dismantle $30m investment fraud scheme in Australia

Maria Nikolova

The scam, which affected about 2,000 victims across Australia, involved high pressure sales tactics and offering investors artificially high returns on share market investments.

Australians have been exposed to the increased activities of investment fraudsters, with more than 2,000 people having fallen victim to an investment fraud syndicate operating primarily from the Gold Coast. Police from State Crime Command on Wednesday said it closed an operation in relation to the syndicate whose activities had caused $30 million in losses. The two-year operation was conducted by the Financial and Cyber Crimes Group.

Five people have been arrested including four men aged in their 30’s and 40’s and a 41-year-old woman. The five arrested are either the principal players behind the fraudulent scheme or involved in the laundering of victims’ money.

The scammers used high pressure sales tactics and offered victims artificially high returns on share market investments through a computer program. The scheme was supported by bogus websites containing fake information about the product and companies. Company names used by the syndicate include ESL, Eurosoft, OWS, OW Sydney, One Wealth, GTA, GlobalTech, GTA Australia, GT Australia, GT Alliance, TRP, TRP Solutions, Thorne Roberts Price and Thomson Rowe Partners.

The investigation continues and anyone who may have been a victim of this scam is urged to contact the police.

The latest numbers released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in its annual report on scam activity for 2016 point to a rise in investment fraud. Last year, the Commission received 155,035 scam reports, up by 47% compared to 2015.

In 2016, the ACCC and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) received a total of 200,103 reports about scams. Losses reported to Scamwatch, ACORN and from other scam disruption programs amounted to approximately $300 million.

The ACCC report shows that phone based investment scams are popular in Australia. Cold calling investment scams resulted in the highest reported losses for phone based scams with $11.5 million lost based on 879 reports. Most of these losses related to offers of investment opportunities in binary options, as well as “the opportunity” to buy shares at lower than market rates.

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