Investment scams surge and older australians are in the spotlight

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OLDER Australians are among those being hit hardest by a rising wave of investment scams.

A new report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says losses from these scams almost doubled in 2015 to $24.5 million, and they are now the most widely reported type of scam.

It says more than 80 per cent of people affected were over age 45 and a large number were over 55 by sophisticated scammers preying on retirees who are seeking investment returns higher than todays record low deposit account interest rates.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says investment scam perpetrators often dress up their fake opportunities with glossy brochures and professional-looking websites.

The ACCC is increasingly concerned that scammers will be setting their sights on older Australians to access their superannuation funds via investment scams, she says.

Ms Rickard says people should always do their own research on an investment company, check the moneysmart.gov.au website to make sure the company has an Australian Financial Services licence, and never feel pressured into making investment decisions.

She says the data shows that older people are more likely to report scams, and less likely than younger age groups to become victims, but when they become a victim they lose a lot more.

We are in a low interest rate environment at the moment, which might be good for homebuyers but its terrible for retirees.

Scammers like older people because theyre more likely to have money. Older people also are more likely to be on a landline telephone, be listed and be home during the daytime.

The ACCC says people should never give their details to unsolicited callers or reply to emails offering financial advice or investment opportunities, and be suspicious of any investment that promises a high return with little or no risk.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman Peter Kell says the most common investment scams reported to ASIC come from overseas cold calls.

In many cases the pitch to consumers is so professional, slick and believable that it is hard to tell these are not genuine financial opportunities, he says.

Scammers have sophisticated sales practices that include call scripts, false paperwork, fake websites and made-up referees.

Do not send your money overseas for an investment offer that has come out of the blue. Its as simple as that.

ASIC says investment cams typically offer high, quick returns, big rewards for small upfront payments, discounts for early bird investors, inside information about investment opportunities, no-risk investments or magic software that promises to make you rich through active share trading.

Anyone concerned about investment or other scams can visit scamwatch.gov.au or moneysmart.gov.au.