Colleen paid an initial $250 to set up an account with Stocks CM which then directed her to open an account with CoinSpot, a cryptocurrency trading platform.
Next she transferred $1500 before increasing the amounts as the weeks went by.
“I put through $175,000 in the end,” Colleen said. “Everything went swimmingly until January 11.”
Colleen says Stocks CM leveraged her investment on the foreign exchange market before they ceased communication.
“That wiped me out and left me eventually with $2806 American [dollars] which I asked them to send back and they ignored me.”
The ACCC said investment scams were the highest category of losses reported with $128 million, followed by dating and romance scams.
“Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated and last year used the COVID-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walks of life during this crisis,” Ms Rickard said.
“We saw scammers claiming the government restrictions meant people could not see items in person before purchase. This was a common ruse in vehicle sale and puppy scams, which both had higher reports and losses.”
In February, Colleen reported the scam to NSW Police.
“They acknowledged it and that was it,” she said.
The most insidious part of the scam was the way Stocks CM won her trust.
“I had a really friendly relationship with them – they’d ring up and chat,” Colleen said.
Another key element to the scam is the appearance of celebrity endorsement.
A search for “Stocks CM” online reveals dozens of reviews reporting the company as a scam.
Colleen has been receiving assistance from IDCARE, a trans-Tasman not-for-profit community service that assists victims of scams and identity theft at no cost.
Managing director David Lacey said investment scammers target “motivated” and “active investors”.
“Speed is everything,” he said.
“Very few investment scammers face traditional law enforcement intervention, such as arrests and asset seizure. The police are good at tracking down any local elements of these organised crime groups, but once offshore it is really problematic for law enforcement.”
Colleen learnt an expensive lesson and hopes speaking out will help others avoid her fate.
“I feel like an absolute twit. But what’s the use of that? I can lie down in a corner and die or I can come back and pick myself up and get on [with life].”
Stocks CM and CoinSpot were contacted for comment but did not respond before deadline.
If you’ve been scammed, visit Scamwatch.gov.au or call IDCARE on 1300 432 273.
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