The number of Australians scammed by fake bond investment schemes almost tripled in the first half of this year, with losses topping $20 million.
There were 228 reports of imposter bond scams between January and June, compared with 82 reports in the same period last year, Scamwatch revealed on Wednesday.
The “alarming” spike comes amid rising interest rates, as consumers considering investing in bonds are exposed to the sophisticated frauds.
Imposter bond scams usually impersonate real financial companies or banks and claim to offer government or Treasury bonds, or fixed term deposits.
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People often fall victim to them after searching online for investment opportunities and completing inquiry forms via fake third-party comparison sites.
Losses suffered by Australians to imposter bond scams jumped by 265% in the first half of the year, compared to the same period last year.
More than half of those who reported losses to the scams were first contacted by phone, accounting for $11 million in losses.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in imposter bond scams, so we are urging Australians to be very cautious when presented with investment opportunities,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“These comparison sites can appear very convincing, and people are providing their details under the impression that these are legitimate Australian sites comparing real financial services.”
Victims of imposter bond scams are usually asked to transfer money into a bank account, which is sometimes based in Australia.
It’s common for victims to deposit large sums upfront and not check their account for months, convinced they are making a legitimate long-term investment, before realising they have been conned.
“Investment opportunities that promise a high return with little to no risk are likely to be a scam,” Rickard added.
To avoid becoming prey, it was critical consumers called the bank or financial service directly, to independently verify they were issuing the bonds.
Consumers should use details they have sourced themselves, rather than any phone numbers or links provided, and if they seem to have been dealing with someone from the institution, should ask to speak to them.
They should also always have an accredited financial or legal advisor check any potential investment opportunity before sending money or providing credit card details and only ever invest as much as they can afford to lose.
Consumers who believe they have been scammed are urged to contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible.