Following the release of the figures, ASIC’s deputy chairman Peter Kell said the regulator is warning people to be more wary of fraudsters and offered tips for the public to protect themselves from money-stealing scams.
"The ScamWatch data published by the ACCC indicates that a wide variety of scams, including investment and 'get rich quick' scams, continue to hit Australians."
"Overseas-based scammers in particular commonly target consumers in wealthier countries such as Australia. People over 55, many of whom are looking for investment returns in a low interest rate environment, are often most at risk," he said.
"ASIC received 367 reports about scams in 2015, although in our experience scams are often under reported. The number of Australians contacted by scammers, and the amounts of money lost, are likely to be much larger than what is reported to us."
In 2015 the top five types of scams reported to ASIC were:
– overseas cold-calling about investment opportunities;
– overseas calls offering easy credit or loans after payment of an upfront fee;
– sports arbitrage or gambling schemes;
– money transfer schemes (job opportunity or other fraud); and
– fake debt and invoice scams.
"The scams reported to ASIC generally come from overseas," Mr Kell said.
"In many cases the pitch to consumers is so professional, slick and believable that it is hard to tell these are not genuine financial opportunities. Scammers have sophisticated sales practices that include call scripts, false paperwork, fake websites and made-up referees," Mr Kell said.
Typically, according to ASIC, investment and financial scams will offer:
– high, quick returns and sometimes tax-free benefits;
– big rewards for what seems a small upfront payment;
– discounts for early bird investors;
– 'no risk' or 'low risk' investments, where 'you can sell any time', get a refund for non-performance or have 'guaranteed' transactions;
– inside information or the opportunity to invest before a public float; or
– “magic” software that claims to predict sporting results or promises to makes you rich through active share trading.
"Do not send your money overseas for an investment offer that has come out of the blue. It's as simple as that," Mr Kell warned.
"If you wish to invest, take some time to consider your needs and objectives. Only put your money with a managed fund or other investment that is licensed by ASIC, and speak to a licensed adviser if you want investment advice."