National Anti-Scam Centre releases its first Investment Scam Fusion Cell Report

ASIC

Key points

  • NASC has released the findings of its first Investment Scam Fusion Cell designed to identify investment scam campaigns and their enablers, to block the use of these enablers, and to identify barriers to better coordinate scam prevention and disruption.
  • The Fusion Cell was co-led by ACCC and ASIC and ran for a period of six months from August 2023 to February 2024.

The National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC) has released its Investment Scam Fusion Cell Report, which outlines findings of the first Fusion Cell co-led by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions (ASIC) to combat investment scams.

The Fusion Cell, which ran from August 2023 to February 2024, was designed to identify investment scam campaigns and their enablers, to block the use of these enablers, and to identify barriers to better coordinate scam prevention and disruption.

Key Fusion Cell outputs included:

  • Creation of a direct referral process for the takedown of scam advertisements, advertorials, and videos resulting in more than 1,000 instances being removed by digital platforms
  • Takedown of over 220 investment scam websites, and
  • Diversion of 113 attempted calls to confirmed scam phone numbers to a recorded warning, preventing potentially millions of dollars in imposter bond and term deposit scam losses.

The Fusion Cell also informed improvements in scam prevention:

  • Creation of a Scamwatch feature to make it easier for individuals to report scam advertisements on social media and search platforms
  • Expansion of recorded warnings to more telecommunication providers in cooperation with Optus and Telstra
  • Development of technology for automated referral of relevant reports to Scamwatch for ASIC’s service to takedown investment scam websites
  • Proposal for a three-month data sharing trial on investment scam payments, and
  • Creation of a handbook of disruption strategies to identify and combat artificial intelligence trading platform scams.

ACCC and ASIC worked closely with 43 organisations, including representatives from government, law enforcement, banks, digital currency exchanges, telecommunication providers and digital platforms to collaborate, share insights and act quickly on intelligence to disrupt investment scams.

Overall losses from investment scams amounted to $1.3 billion in 2023, down from $1.5 billion in 2022. The National Anti-Scam Centre quarterly update (Jan-Mar 2024) reported investment scams losses have continued to fall in the January to March quarter 2024, by a further 10.1% to $47.1 million (and down by 47% compared to the corresponding quarter in 2023). This trend is encouraging, and an early sign that industry and government’s response to scams is beginning to have impact. This includes initiatives such as ASIC’s investment scam website takedown capability which has taken down over 5,000 websites since it was launched in July 2023. However, highly damaging losses continue to fall on Australians seeking investment opportunities.

Awareness and alerts

Targeted awareness is an important aspect of scam disruption. The Fusion Cell noted the range of methods for alerting the community to scams, including ASIC’s new investor alert list.

In November 2023, ASIC launched the investor alert list, replacing the old Companies You Should Not Deal With list on ASIC’s Moneysmart website.

The investor alert list helps inform consumers about investments that could be fraudulent, a scam or are being offered and promoted by unlicensed entities and individuals. It also includes ‘impostor’ entities, which impersonate or falsely claim to be associated with a legitimate business (impersonation scam). The investor alert list can also be used by banks and other financial services to be informed about companies and businesses that are not to be trusted.

Since its launch, ASIC has:

  • Added more than 500 new entries on the investor alert list. More than 200 of these entries were reported to ASIC by members of the NASC Fusion cell
  • Over 91,000 page views of the investor alert list since launch.

Consumers can search the investor alert list on ASIC’s Moneysmart website.

Investor information

Before investing, Australians can make these simple practical checks to help reduce the risk of investment scams check ASIC’s Offer Notice Board to see if a prospectus relates to a recent offer registered and check ASIC’s register of Australian financial services licensees to make sure any party promoting or issuing the financial product is licensed or is authorised by a licensee.

Protect yourself

STOP

  • Be suspicious of anyone offering you easy money. Investment scams often involve promises of payouts for little or no risk, quick money, or guaranteed returns. But there’s always a catch.
  • For more information about reducing the risk of investment scams, visit ASIC’s Moneysmart website.

THINK

  • Ask yourself if you really know who you are communicating with? Scammers can use sophisticated techniques to impersonate a legitimate financial service business, copying logos and ABNs.
  • Do your own research of investment offers and independently verify who you are dealing with.

PROTECT

  • Act quickly if something feels wrong. If you have shared financial information or transferred money, contact your bank immediately. Help others by reporting scams to Scamwatch.

Where to get help

Australians, regardless of whether they have lost money, are encouraged to report scams to Scamwatch. Reports can be made anonymously. If you think you might be a target of an investment scam or have experienced cybercrime and lost money online, contact your bank immediately. You can also report to police via ReportCyber.

If you provided ID documents for a scam investment, you can access support from IDCARE, a national identity and cyber support service.

Learn more about how to get help through scamwatch.gov.au. Follow Scamwatch on X/Twitter or subscribe to radar alerts.

For crisis support to help with emotional distress about scams contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or access support via the online chat between 7 pm and midnight. Beyond Blue also provides support for anxiety and depression 1300 22 4636 or chat online at Beyond Blue.

Background

The National Anti-Scam Centre launched on 1 July 2023. The centre will build capability and data sharing technology over the next three years.

The technology build will ultimately enable the Centre to:

  • Receive a report of a scam from any institution (private or government) and centralise this intelligence
  • Distribute data to those who can help to stop the scam – such as banks to freeze an account, telcos to block a call, digital platforms to take down a website or account
  • Analyse and act on the trends sourced from this data to disrupt scams and educate Australians.

In a recent report, Australians were stated to have lost over $2.74 billion to scams in 2023 (a 13% decrease) compared to over $3.1 billion lost in 2022. Investment scams remains the biggest losses for Australians, with $1.3 billion lost to investment scams in 2023 (down from $1.5 billion in 2022).

ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator.

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