A joint operation between the Queensland Police Service (QPS), the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), with assistance from the Australian Federal Police yesterday investigated the operations of a serious and organised fraudulent investment scam.
Multiple search warrants were executed across a number of premises and a call centre targeting individuals allegedly involved in investment scams based on the Gold Coast. Detective Superintendant Brian Hay said the combined resources of the QPS, ACC and ASIC have resulted in the closure of the call centre associated with the investment scams.
?We?re now appealing for anyone who may have had unsolicited contact, by telephone or the internet, from a company known as West Trade or Atlas Lead Generation, where the caller successfully or attempted to engage the receiver (victim) into investing, to contact police or Crime Stoppers,? he said.
Mr Hay also appealed for anyone who worked for the company to come forward and assist police with their inquiries.
?Australians are under attack by organised fraud operations, both locally and overseas and it is vital that people exercise extreme caution when dealing with emotional investment opportunities. It can?t be stressed strongly enough the importance of seeking independent financial and legal advice before engaging in any investment,? he said.
The joint operation forms part of a broader multi-agency task force established by the ACC Board earlier this year. The task force comprises law enforcement, regulatory and welfare agencies, to combat the risk posed to individuals and the community by fraudulent investment scams and harden the Australian environment against this type of organised criminality.
Carey Stent, ACC Manager Target Development and Intervention said this kind of criminal activity is a serious risk to the Australian Community, and the risk is not over.
?Based on initial type of indications, more than 2400 Australians have lost in excess of $93 million to these schemes, but we believe there is a high level of underreporting and the extent of criminality is far greater.?
?There are a significant number of offshore operations still active and thousands of Australians are still at risk,? Mr Stent said.
?I urge potential investors to carefully consider all investment opportunities and seek professional advice before making investment decisions?, Mr Stent said.
ASIC Commissioner Peter Kell said the regulator?s involvement in today?s operation follows recent action against operators of onshore investment scams.
?Just last month, ASIC obtained court orders against an unlicensed financial services business operating on the Gold Coast. This scam alone cost over 20 investors approximately $250,000. ASIC is committed to confronting these investment scams, including through joint operations with other law enforcement agencies.?
?These fraudsters operate without Australian financial services licenses and use false addresses and phone lines often routed to another address. The moment you receive a cold call, ask yourself, where did they get my number, how did they get my name, and why are they contacting me,? Commissioner Kell said.
On 28 September 2011 the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) Board urged Australians to protect themselves against the growing threat of serious and organised fraudulent investment scams.
While these scams are typically based offshore, it is clear they are also operating locally. By using highly sophisticated websites, they trick investors into thinking the investment offers are legitimate.
Organised crime is attracted to the high levels of superannuation and retirement savings in Australia and people approaching retirement and looking for investment opportunities should be aware of these fraudulent scams.
People can protect themselves by hanging up on any suspicious calls received and by further investigating and researching any investment offer:
? Visit www.moneysmart.gov.au or call 1300 300 630 for further information.
? Alert your family and friends to this fraud, especially anyone who may have savings to invest.
? Report suspected fraud to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, via www.moneysmart.gov.au or 1300 300 630, or your local police. Any information that can be provided such as company name, location and contact details will assist with subsequent investigations and enquiries.
? Hang up on unsolicited telephone calls offering overseas investments.
? Check any company you are discussing investments with has a valid Australian Financial Services Licence at www.moneysmart.gov.au
? Always seek independent financial advice before making an investment.
Victim support is available through the Survivors of Financial Crime Support Group on (07) 3364 6622. For more information, see the Serious and organised fraudulent investment scam fact sheet on the Australian Crime Commission website, http://www.crimecommission.gov.au/publications/crime-profile-series/serious-andorganised-fraudulent-investment-scams.htm