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Investment scams - are you a target?

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Investment scams are becoming more sophisticated. Fraudsters are smart, friendly, charming and persuasive. Websites look professional and you may even be given an online account showing details of ‘trades’ you’ve made. It can be hard to tell a scam apart from a genuine investment, which is why it’s even more important you know what to look out for.

Anyone can lose money through a scam. It’s no longer only vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly, who are being targeted. In fact if you’re an experienced investor, you’re more likely to be a target.

You’re more vulnerable to scams when:

Your financial situation changes

You may have a sudden increase in income – from the sale of a business, an inheritance or a retirement lump sum – and be wondering how to invest it. Or your income may suddenly decrease – because of a job loss or a divorce settlement – and you feel under pressure to increase your income quickly.

You’ve previously been scammed

If you’ve lost money through an investment scam, you’ll be desperate to get it back. This is when ‘recovery fraud’ becomes a threat. You may receive follow-up calls from businesses offering to help you get your money back or threatening legal action if you stop payments. This is likely to be part of the original scam or your details may have been sold to another fraudster. This is a typical approach used by boiler room or cold call scams.

You feel responsible for providing for your family

You may be the only income provider in a family with young children, unable to work because you’re caring for an elderly relative, or wanting to work less so you can spend more time with family. In these circumstances, the promise of guaranteed high returns in a short period of time becomes much more appealing.

Ways you can get caught out

Read our types of scams page to learn how different investment scams target people.

We’ve recently received a complaint about a cold call share scam from an experienced investor who lost over NZ$65,000. This scam started with an unexpected phone call.

Read John’s story to learn from his experience of a sophisticated share scam.

In New Zealand it’s illegal to sell financial products off the back of a cold call. If you receive an unexpected call about an investment opportunity, hang up straight away. Don't engage the caller as they'll use their skill to persuade you to part with your money.

4 things you can do to lower your risk

  1. Read our steps to protect yourself
  2. Be wary of someone you don’t know contacting you about an investment opportunity. There’s a very high chance it will be a scam.
  3. Be very wary of investing in products that are only available on the internet. Many of these businesses are based overseas. This often makes it impossible for you to recover your money if things go wrong.
  4. If you’re unsure about an investment, seek financial advice before investing.