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The corporate watchdog says it has removed thousands of scam investment websites in a takedown blitz, as one of the nation’s big four banks urges Taylor Swift fans to remain vigilant about ticket scams ahead of her upcoming blockbuster tour.
More than 2100 investment scam websites purporting to offer high-risk products like crypto assets and FX derivatives have been removed since July, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission revealed on Thursday, with around 20 dodgy websites taken down per day.
Taylor Swift performing during the US leg of her Eras Tour. Fans are told to beware of ticket scams.Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Some 60 per cent of all scam losses involve investment scams, including fake celebrity endorsements featuring the likes of iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest and TV personality David Koch, said Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones, while announcing a further $17.6 million in federal government funding for anti-fraud initiatives.
“Scammers are using all the tricks in the bag to con consumers – offering attractive investment returns, using fake ACNs [Australian Company Numbers] and claiming to have ASIC endorsement,” Jones said. “It’s no surprise that even to the discerning eye these scam websites trick consumers.”
The assistant treasurer said the government was making “some serious headway” in disrupting investment scams, working in tandem with the National Anti-Scams Centre to help protect Australians from losing their hard-earned savings.
“We’re beginning to see a trend of more reporting due to better awareness” and a decline in losses to investment scams over the last quarter, he said. “This is a trend we’d like to see continue – but we all have to stay vigilant.”
Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest is embroiled in a criminal trial he brought against Facebook, alleging the social media giant funnelled users to cryptocurrency scam websites that used his name to defraud unsuspecting victims.
Iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest’s name has been used in crypto scams. Credit: The Comms Store
Forrest is one of several high-profile Australians, including Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth and TV presenters Waleed Aly and David Koch, whose images and names have been used to endorse cryptocurrency scams on Facebook since 2019.
The case is being viewed as a test case against the US tech giant that may have implications for how it handles advertising on its platform.
“I’m doing this on behalf of innocent Australians who don’t have the resources to take on companies like Facebook … The same people who are being scammed and many of whom have seen me falsely featured on Facebook advertisements,” Forrest said last year when he brought the legal action.
The case, which is being heard in Western Australia, is set to return to court later this month for an expected judgement.
“We don’t want ads seeking to scam people out of money or mislead people on Facebook – they violate our policies and are not good for our community,” a spokeswoman for Facebook’s parent company Meta said in response.
“We take a multifaceted approach to stop these ads, we work not just to detect and reject the ads themselves, but also block advertisers from our services and, in some cases, take court action to enforce our policies. We’re committed to keeping these people off our platform.”
NAB meanwhile issued a fresh warning on Thursday for Taylor Swift fans to stay vigilant about ticket scams across Spotify, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, ahead of her Eras tour coming to Australia in February.
Laura Hartley, the bank’s manager for security advisory and awareness, said ticket scams were becoming more sophisticated, making it vital for customers to recognise red flags.
“Be extremely cautious about buying tickets online via social media,” she said.
“We’re hearing about criminals hacking social media profiles and selling bogus concert tickets to the account owner’s friends, who aren’t aware someone else is controlling the account.
“Even if it’s a friend you legitimately know, pick up the phone and talk to them directly before sending money. Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed.”
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