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The Australian Crime Commission says the internet has been the equivalent of steroids for investment scams.


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In a report released on Monday, the ACC estimates more than 2,500 people were ripped off by organised investment scams in the past five years, losing more than $113 million, and the number is climbing.

The report also found scammers are becoming more sophisticated, using glossy brochures and professional websites to ply their trade.

They are even buying the personal details of potential victims from the customer lists of legitimate companies.

ACC chief executive John Lawler says many fraudsters are part of large, organised operations.

"They are transnational organised criminals at work," he said.

"These are people who have tens of hundreds of millions of dollars of assets behind them so that they can organise themselves in an international scale.

"They're enabled by the internet like never before, so they can reach potentially more victims than they ever have."

Mr Lawler says a profiling of victims shows that they are normally over 50, predominantly male, well-educated and have invested before.

He says the fact that such people are being defrauded shows how sophisticated the criminal networks are.

Michael, a South Australian in his 50s, lost a $250,000 to an online scheme and has issued a clear warning to others.

Michael has more than 15 years of investing experience and thought he knew what he was getting into when he was cold-called by a Hong Kong investment company selling spot gold shares last September.

"I spoke to a fellow, he gave me his name and his phone numbers, he gave me websites to look at, which I duly went and looked at," he said.

"There was no real pressure, it was set up like a professional financial investment."
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