“It just didn’t occur to me that I could be the target of a scam.”
So says poor old Malcolm, one of 170 Australians lured by cold callers last February to invest in a bogus offshore options trading scam. He lost $30,000 and other Australians lost over $2 million.
The Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is focusing on scams awareness and is urging Australians to be conscious of the techniques of scammers. The promise of easy money, high returns or novel investment opportunities can temporarily cloud an investor’s judgement.
Malcolm was called out of the blue by a fictitious London firm called Cambridge Capital Trading. The scammers set up a fake website called the Dubai Options exchange, a fake regulator called the United Arab Emirates Commodity Futures Board.
Cambridge Capital Trading claimed to offer financial services within the Dubai International Financial Centre. Electronic answering devices, a phone fax and fake billing addresses for the website were set up in Dubai, Britain and the US.
The scammer urged Malcolm to refer to a website and discussed how his investment would be managed. Malcolm was then encouraged to transfer funds to a bank account in Malaysia.
The cold calling victims are also told there is a “short window of opportunity” and also offer to do the paperwork for investors.
Here is ASIC’s list of what to do if approached by a cold caller
- Check the cold calling black list. Note down the name and business and check it against ASIC’s list of unlicensed overseas cold callers available on its consumer website FIDO.
- Deal only with listed financial services businesses.
- Request more paperwork such as annual reports, financial statements.