Information discovered following a full-scale operation on four Serbian contact centres and 11 residences by Serbian, German, Bulgarian, and Cyprus officials revealed that Australians were among the top countries targeted. During the raids, fifteen persons were arrested and $1.46 million in cryptocurrencies were recovered, among other things.
According to the investigation, scammers from these call centres allegedly exploited social media marketing to entice victims and promise attractive investment opportunities. According to private investigation organizations, Australians are particularly sought after by fraudsters due to their relative wealth and a rumoured history of lax investigative efforts by federal and state authorities:
“Australia’s wealth combined with a long history of state and federal authorities being unwilling or unable to investigate online investment fraud has made the country a sitting duck for the international crime syndicates behind the scams.” According to Mark Solomons, Senior Investigator at IFW Global, a private intelligence business, because many Australians are “kind” and “open-minded,” they are more willing to seek online connections — especially “if the proper buttons are touched.”
“There are Israelis getting very, very rich by ripping off Australians and draining superannuation and retirement funds out of the Australian economy,” Solomons said, adding that most of the stolen cryptocurrency are used to finance the scammers’ opulent lives. “We’re talking about folks who fly around in private aircraft, who have enormous assets, real estate, nice automobiles and cash. They are freely moving around the world and purchasing boats,” Solomons noted.
While Europol revealed that the global operation took $3.1 million, they suspect the total number “may be in the hundreds of millions of euros.” Solomons advised the Australian government to increase enforcement efforts at the state, federal, and international levels in comparison to other “well-resourced” nations in order to make targeting Australian investors less tempting to these fraudsters.
While some publications claim that Australians lost up to $2 billion in investment scams in 2021, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch database, Australians lost $323.7 million in 2021, which grew by a whooping 75.6% to $568.6 million in 2022.
In comparison to other “well-resourced” nations, Solomons urged the Australian government to up its enforcement efforts at the state, federal and international level to make the targeting of Australian investors less appealing to these scammers.
While some reports say Australians lost up to $2 billion from investment scams in 2021, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported Australians to have lost $323.7 million, which increased a whopping 75.6% to $568.6 million in 2022, according to the consumer watchdog’s Scamwatch database.