POLICE are warning people to take preventative measures to avoid falling victim to online and phone scams.
As of June 2012, law enforcement has identified more than 2600 Australians who have been defrauded of $113 million in recent years.
Australians in or approaching retirement age have been the main targets of fraud, as they usually have ready access to investible savings.
Many of these criminals use high-pressure sales tactics and sophisticated websites to trick people into becoming involved in bogus investments.
Criminals also claiming to be investment brokers have also been known to contact people by phone, creating a perception of legitimacy regular reports of strong investment returns, media releases and professional looking documents delivered by courier.
Officer in Charge of Electronic and Commercial Crime Branch, Detective Superintendent Jim Jeffery said victims are coaxed into electronically transferring large sums of money into overseas bank accounts.
“These crimes are not routine scams, they are serious and organised frauds which can substantially impact on victims,” he said.
“There are cases where victims have lost their entire superannuation, life savings and/or property.”
The average individual loss is around $42,348, with losses ranging from $1000 to $4 million.
One example saw a man in his mid 50s in the State’s southeast lose around $250,000 to an offshore investment fraud, delaying his retirement by up to five years.
The Australian Crime Commission Board has established a multi-agency task force to disrupt and prevent potential fraud cases and to educate Australians on the threat they pose.
SAPOL is also working with the Australian Crime Commission and other police and industry representatives on Task Force Galilee, which has been organised to prevent the increasing threat of offshore investment fraud.
Superintendent Jim Jeffery said even experienced investors can fall victim to these sophisticated schemes.
“These organised criminals predominately operate from offshore, minimising the opportunity to identify and prosecute the offenders and recover victims’ funds,” he said.
“Prevention and awareness are therefore the most effective strategies.”
People are encouraged to seek financial advice before making an investment, hang up on unsolicited calls offering overseas investments and alert any family or friends if they have savings to invest.
To check if a company has a valid Australian Financial Services License, report suspected fraud or for more information, ring 1300 300 630, or go online at www.moneysmart.gov.au.