Australians have lost $26 million to investment fraudsters this year and cryptocurrency cons are partly to blame.

Crypto trading scams have grown significantly in the past 12 months and are now the second most common type of investment scam, the competition regulator reported today.

“The rise in popularity in cryptocurrency trading has not been missed by scammers who are latching onto this new trend to con people,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“These are similar to any other investment scam: the scammer will claim to have inside knowledge about price movements they will use to make you a fortune. If you invest, your money will quickly disappear.”

Crypto cons made up 123 of the 1796 reports the Scamwatch site has fielded this year, costing unwitting Australians about $1.67 million, an ACCC spokesman told Stockhead.

Aussies not getting savvier

The Scamwatch site shows that on average $4.2 million a month is being lost to scammers.

Last year about $33 million was reported lost to Scamwatch and another $31 million reported to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.

And it seems we’re not getting smarter about where we put our money.

At this rate Australians are set to lose $100 million to scammers this year — up from $64.6 million last year, the ACCC warns.

The most common scam

The most common investment scam is still centred on traditional investment markets like stocks, real estate or commodities.

Scammers will cold-all victims claiming to be a stock broker or investment portfolio manager and offer a ‘hot tip’ or inside information on a stock or asset that is supposedly about to go up significantly in value.

They will claim what they are offering is low-risk and will provide quick and high returns.

“These scams are very sophisticated and the scammers are very convincing,” the ACCC spokesperson said.

“People aged 45–64 are most at risk and make up more than half the reports sent to Scamwatch.

“Scammers will spend significant time and effort grooming their victims to invest. They will use the right technical language and also offer professional looking websites and documents to convince victims they are legitimate.

“It’s often only when people try to cash out their investment that they realise their money is gone.”