Was the Gold Coast call centre shut down by police in December 2011 the heart of an investment scam? Police, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), also searched multiple premises on the Gold Coast at this time.
Charges were not laid but police urged anyone who had received unsolicited contact from a company known as West Trade or Atlas Lead Generation to contact them.
ASIC Commissioner Peter Kell reported that an investment scam on the Gold Coast shut down in November had duped more than 20 investors out of about $250,000.
“These [scams] operate without Australian financial services licences and use false addresses and phone lines often routed to another address,” he said.
In February the press is reporting that organised crime gangs are targeting retirees with sophisticated scams that may have already cost thousands of elderly Australians more than $100 million.
The Australian economy remains relatively unscathed after the global financial crisis.
Police and the Australian Crime Commission say the gangs are going to extreme lengths to back up their scams by manning multiple phones with convincing associates for the inevitable inquiries.
The scams usually begin with a phone call and an invitation to invest in a scheme offering massive returns. The victim may then be directed to a website, which looks convincingly ‘official’.
When the victims with sensible queries telephone numbers supplied by the criminals there are always carefully thought-through stories that make the operation sound legitimate and covering stories for further queries.
The ACC estimates that more than 2400 individuals, 800 companies and 51 superannuation funds have lost a total of $93 million to date.
On average, victims have lost about $130,000, with losses ranging from $35,000 to greater than $4 million.
It is believed the cost is far greater than reported.
The ACC has set up a joint taskforce called ‘Galilee’ with state and federal law enforcement bodies. It says:
”Losses and numbers of victims are expected to rise considerably. To date the taskforce has focused on a small number of known fraudulent scams and related organised crime entities and the full extent of the crime is being determined.”