Scamwatch is warning investors to beware of binary trading scams that lure you in with the opportunity to make money through asset price movement. So far this year Australians have lost $3 million to these scammers.
Binary options involve predicting the movements of commodity, asset or index prices over a short time. Although they may be a legitimate financial product with many licenced firms trading in them, binary options are speculative, high risk products that are almost impossible to predict, even for professionals. There are groups of scammers who use binary options to steal your money.
These scammers use high-pressure sales tactics to try and convince you to invest in a trading account, making claims that the system is simple and high profits are guaranteed. If you agree, they direct you to a website with a login, account details and the trading platform. They put your money into the account and demonstrate a number of successful trades to encourage you to invest greater sums of money.
Once invested in the scheme, victims have reported that their money begins to disappear quickly. When they try to withdraw from the scheme, they find it impossible to get their money out of the account. The scammer does everything they can to keep the victim in the program but inevitably they stop taking the victim's calls and, after a short period of time, it is common for the firms to disappear.
If you receive a phone call or see an online ad offering binary trading be very cautious. Do your research on the offer and the company. Don't agree to anything straight away.
How these scams work
- You receive a call out of the blue offering a secure investment with fast, high returns. You might also come across these scammers through social media or online ads.
- The scammers have professional looking websites to help them appear legitimate, usually with a login process, personalised account details and a trading platform.
- The victim invests money into the account and either the victim or an agent attempts to guess whether a particular commodity price will go up or down over short intervals.
- If you guess correctly, the account is credited with a small return. If you guess incorrectly, you lose the entire amount placed. The odds are stacked against you so it is very likely that you will lose over time.
- When you attempt to withdraw money, you find it almost impossible to do so and often lose the entire investment.
- Binary option scammers will also ask for personal information, claiming they need it to transfer money or that it is required for anti-money laundering purposes. Providing this information can leave you open to identity theft.
- Consider any approach for investment offers carefully, especially if they are over the phone. Be suspicious of investment opportunities that promise a high return with little or no risk.
- Check ASIC's list of companies you should not deal with. If the company that called you is on the list - don't deal with them. However, if they do not appear on the list it doesn't mean they are legitimate.
- Check ASIC’s professional registers to make sure the provider has an Australian Financial Services (AFS) License or is authorised by an AFS Licensee.
- Don't let anyone pressure you into making decisions about money or investments - get independent legal or financial advice.
- Carefully consider who you are giving personal information to, such as details from your passport or bank account, as this could be later used for identity theft.
- If you are looking to invest in binary options your best bet is to just say no and look for a safer, less risky investment.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the Scamwatch Report a scam page.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart website has information on binary options.
Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @Scamwatch_gov.