Phishing and software-based investment scams are among the targets of warnings sent out today by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to mark National Consumers' Day.
"The best scam buster is the well informed consumer, especially for offshore scams where it's very difficult to recover money or hunt down perpetrators. So it is important for every consumer to know the tell-tale signs of the most common financial scams', said ASIC executive director, consumer protection and international, Greg Tanzer.
The top four financial scams include the phishing problem which topped the e-scams list last year. ASIC said it saw bogus e-mails being sent to consumers claiming to be from their banks, credit card companies or favourite online shopping sites, fishing for account numbers and PINs.
These e-mails, nearly always sent from overseas, can look surprisingly genuine, often tricked up with claims of "security upgrades", "account verification" or warnings about scams.
'Your best weapon is the delete button. Remember that no matter how real an e-mail looks, banks, credit card companies and reputable internet shopping sites will never ask for your PIN by e-mail,' Tanzer said.
'Get rich quick systems, often based on expensive share trading software, are also re-emerging. As the property market cools there may be more emphasis on share trading schemes', Tanzer warned.
'We have warned consumers before about such schemes, and the risks for inexperienced investors with expensive share trading software. Too often the past returns are inflated and the risks downplayed,' said Tanzer.
Also included in the top four is the re-emergence of unlicensed offshore stockbrokers in the marketplace. They are cold calling and e-mailing previous victims with offers to trade worthless shares for new shares. They are also looking for new victims, offering overpriced shares in start-up companies.
"In both situations, once your money goes offshore, it is probably gone. Remember 'no licence means no protection', so our advice is simple: deal only through businesses with an Australian financial services licence. Licensed Australian business can easily help you deal in overseas investments if you want,' said Tanzer.
Another financial scam is spread of advertisements claiming early access to superannuation. 'Lately, ASIC has been involved in a string of enforcement cases to shut down these bogus schemes, which have either stolen people's money outright or helped themselves to huge fees and left the consumer exposed to potentially heavy legal or taxation penalties,' Tanzer said.