26 September 2023

Crypto-criminals targeting WA victims

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The Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe has reported that investment scams mostly involved with crypto-currencies, were riding a down-falling surge and reporting losses at record low levels in 2022.

“These scams now represent almost a half of total losses,” Mr Newcombe said, “with 71 investors being conned out of $4.1 million in the first half of this year.”

He said that was a 32 per cent increase on the same period of conning last year.

“Overall, 557 WA victims in all scam categories have lost a total of $10.3 million in the first six months of 2022, heading for an annual record high if the upward trend continues,” Mr Newcombe said.

He said heightened public interest in crypto-currency investments was resulting in people becoming vulnerable to scams.

“Get-rich-quick proposals are very tempting at a time when the household budget is under pressure and people are desperately looking for opportunities to get better returns on their investments,” Mr Newcombe said.

“Crypto-currency is a very high-risk investment. It is not legal tender in Australia and is not well regulated.”

He said the price of crypto-currency could fluctuate at extreme levels based on market speculation and the way trading worked, made it easy for people to hide their identity.

“Consumers are advised to never respond to any investment offers, particularly involving crypto-currency, that come via cold-calls, emails, SMS or social media advertising,” Mr Newcombe said.

“The unauthorised use of photos of successful businesspeople, financial gurus and celebrities in fake social media ads can add to the appeal,” he said.

He said that to make the bogus investment scheme seem genuine, scammers went to extreme measures to set up fake yet professional-looking websites, as well as digital wallets.

“A fake rapidly growing balance creates excitement, along with the false belief that the victim has made a good investment decision,” the Commissioner said.

“The scam is often exposed when the investor tries to retrieve their investment and the request is greeted with many excuses as to why the money can’t be withdrawn at that time,” he said.

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