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Celebrity deepfake investment scams targeting Aussies online

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Australian investors lost $8 million to investment trading scams in 2023.

The National Anti-Scam Centre has issued a warning to Australian investors about online scams using fake news articles and deepfake videos of public figures.

Occurring mainly through social media, scammers target victims through ads or videos by using well-known figures such as Elon Musk claiming they have made large amounts of money through certain online investing platforms.

In 2023, 400 reports were made to Scamwatch about online investment platform scams and Australians lost more than $8 million. According to data analysed by Finder, investment scams have the highest reported financial losses with 44% of those reported ending up in the victim losing money.

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe urged Australians to take their time and do their research before taking up an investment opportunity.

"These fake videos and news articles circulating on social media and video sharing platforms, often claim that the online trading platform uses artificial intelligence or other emerging technologies such as quantum computing to generate high returns for investors, but it is not true," Lowe said.

How the scams work

Victims of these scams are usually targeted through social media ads, deepfake videos and fake news articles about celebrities and public figures.

Once clicked on, victims will be redirected to a website to enter their details and make an initial investment of around $250 to access the trading platform.

Reports to Scamwatch show some of the most common investment trading platform names are Quantum AI, Immediate Edge, Immediate Connect, Immediate X3 and Quantum Trade Wave.

Once the platform is downloaded through an app store, victims are often encouraged to invest more by being shown fake profits.

"We know of an Australian man who lost $80,000 in cryptocurrency after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video interview on social media, clicking the link and registering his details through an online form," said Lowe.

"He was provided with an account manager and an online dashboard where he could see his investment supposedly making huge returns. But when he tried to withdraw the money – he was locked out of his account."

Pig butchering scams

Social media scams are not the only way Australian investors are being targeted. Earlier this year, the Australian Federal Police issued a warning about "pig butchering" scams, also known as romance baiting.

Australians lost up to $4,500 every hour to romance scams in 2022 and $3,800 every hour in 2023.

These scams are more long-term, with the victim entering into a personal online relationship with the scammer where trust is established.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Goldsmid said these scams often start as a friendship.

"Over the course of months or years, the scammer will flaunt a lavish lifestyle and leave a trail of comments about their wealth, such as bragging about the value in their cryptocurrency wallets," he said.

"Once victims ask how they are making their money, victims are directed to a complete replica of an investment site that shows the growth of an investment."

Victims are then shown fake statements and profits so they continue to invest.

"The latest Scamwatch data shows $40 million was lost in romance scams alone in 2022, equating to up to $109,000 a day or an eye-watering $4500 an hour, Goldsmid said.

How to avoid an online investing scam

Before investing in any new investment platform, the regulator urges you to stop and think about what you are investing in. This includes:

  • If they are licenced - See if they hold an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFS) to issue or sell investments in Australia. You can check this on ASIC Connect.
  • If the website is legitimate - Do they have contact details available? Are the licences clearly displayed and are they accurate? Do they have pages such as "About us"?
  • Whether they provide documents - Depending on the investment, they may be required to provide a product disclosure statement (PDS) or a prospectus.
  • If they are on the investor alert list - You can search for this on the MoneySmart website.

Looking for a low-cost online broker to invest in the stock market? Compare share trading platforms to start investing in stocks and ETFs.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involve substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances and obtain your own advice before making any trades.

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