Australians lose more money to investment scams than any other type. These scams can be hard to spot.

Don't lose your life savings to a money-making opportunity that's too good to be true.

Scammers use convincing marketing and new technology to make their investment sound too good to miss. They promise you big payouts with little or no risk. They often use pressure tactics to get you to act fast, so they can steal your money.

Warning signs it might be a scam

  • Fake news stories or ads that claim a celebrity recommends this scheme to make big money.
  • An online contact (a friend or romantic interest) that you've never met in person starts talking to you about investing.
  • Emails, websites or ads with testimonials and over-the-top promises of big returns. 
  • High pressure tactics designed to rush you to act so you don't 'miss out'.
  • The 'adviser' who is helping you claims they don't need an Australian financial services (AFS) license.
  • You are asked to promote the scheme to friends and family to earn commission.

Steps you can take to protect yourself

Always stop, think, and check before you act. These scams will often pressure you to act quickly. Don't let them rush you into a bad decision.

Get independent legal advice, or financial advice from a financial advisor registered with ASIC.

Do your due diligence to make sure you know who you're dealing with. Make sure the company or website is not named on the International Organization of Securities Commission's (IOSCO) investor alerts.

Other things you should check:

  • that the person you are dealing with works for the organisation they say they do, using contact details you found yourself
  • the person trying to sell you a financial or investment product, or who is giving you financial advice, has an Australian financial services (AFS) license
  • the address and contact details for the company are correct on public listed directories
  • the company's share listing on the stock exchange. If the offer to buy the shares is well below the market value shown – it’s a scam. If you are told the shares are being released pre - initial public offering (IPO), be even more cautious
  • when the domain name was registered. A new website for an existing company is a warning sign.

Common investment scams

Scammers use crypto-asset (virtual currency) investments, like Bitcoin or Ether, because they are hard to track.

Crypto is a very high risk and volatile investment. The value can go up or down quickly and there are no guaranteed returns.

If you lose your money to a crypto scam, it’s unlikely you will ever get your money back.

Find out more about crypto scams on the ASIC’s MoneySmart website.

Scammers use the image, name and characteristics of famous people without their permission, to get you to 'invest'. 

These can be very realistic, as scammers use artificial intelligence (AI) to create 'deepfakes' of the person. These images and voices can be very hard to recognise as fake. 

The celebrities’ images are often used in:

  • ads on social media or YouTube
  • fake news stories that appear to be from a well-known news company.

These ads or stories usually link to scam investment or trading websites that often use cryptocurrency.

The scammer uses a fake dating profile on social media, a dating website or app.

The scammer then moves the chat to a different, ‘more private’ chat site such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts or WeChat.

Scammers say things to gain your trust before they tell you about an investment opportunity. Often, they say they have made a lot of money very quickly. They urge you to invest a small amount and you may see a quick return. The scammer then encourages you to invest larger amounts.

If you stop investing or want to withdraw your money, the scammer will stop contacting you. The investment platform will no longer be available, or you may be told the investment failed.

Ponzi schemes are investment scams that use money collected from new investors to pay old investors. There is no real investment. Find out more about Ponzi schemes on the ASIC’s MoneySmart website.

The scammer pretends to be from a financial service company or a bank offering low risk investment products such as government bonds and fixed term loans. They demonstrate specialised financial knowledge, provide convincing documents, websites, and information, which are all fake.

Find out more about imposter bond investment scams on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.

An initial public offering (IPO) involves a company raising capital by offering shares to the public for the first time. Scammers impersonate Australian companies, including banks, to promote offers that coincide with legitimate company listings. They don’t have any association with the companies.

Superannuation scams offer early access to your super fund, often through a self-managed super fund or for a fee. The scammer may pose as a financial adviser.

Find more information on superannuation scams here.

Read more about withdrawing and using your super.

These scams are a form of gambling made to look like real investments. Most do not work as promised and buyers cannot get their money back. There are different versions of this scam.

Computer prediction software

The scammer sells you a software program to predict sporting results promising high returns.

The information used to make the predictions can be found in the betting pages of your local newspaper at very little cost.

Betting syndicates

The scammer asks you to become a member of a betting syndicate for a joining fee (often over $15 000). You are required to make ongoing deposits to maintain the balance of the account.

The scammer tells you that they will use funds in the account to place bets on behalf of the syndicate. You, and other syndicate members' are promised a percentage of the profits, but the scammer simply steals your money.

Sports investment

These scams are promoted as business opportunities or investments at trade fairs, shows or via the internet. 

The scammer uses technical or financial terms such as 'sports arbitrage',' sports betting', 'sports wagering', 'sports tipping' or 'sports trading' to make these scams look like legitimate investments.

More information

Visit the Moneysmart website for more information on investment scams.

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