ASIC warns of scammers impersonating ASIC

While the Australian Securities & Investments Commission’s (ASIC) typically warns consumers about scams that target other organisations, the corporate watchdog has become the target of a scam itself.

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ASIC warned the public yesterday to be alert to scammers who call them out of the blue, purporting to be doing a mystery shop on behalf of ASIC.

It’s common for companies to employ real consumers to ‘mystery’ or ‘shadow’ shop for banking and insurance products, to get details such as pricing, discounts or features not displayed publicly.

ASIC reported that the scammers claim to be looking for shadow shoppers as part of an ASIC compliance and monitoring campaign.

“The scam maintains that it will pay you for your time and may encourage you to meet in person or attend a presentation after which you will receive a questionnaire to complete,” ASIC said.

“The scammers promote their services at the following website, www.theshadowshopper.com that makes false representations that their work is associated with ASIC.”

While ASIC does in fact carry out its own market research from time to time, it uses legitimate market research companies and, in this instance, confirmed that it has no involvement with the fake The Shadow Shopper website or its operators.

ASIC urged anyone who is contacted by a representative of the www.theshadowshopper.com to not respond. The corporate watchdog also noted that the scam was not in any way connected with a legitimate business called Shadow Shopper.

An easy way to spot the fake website from the legitimate Shadow Shopper website is to look at the URLs. The real ASIC Shadow Shopper website URL ends in ‘.com.au’, while fake only uses ‘.com’.

Meanwhile, ANZ has warned Australians about the risk of being scammed this Valentines Day, with romance-related scams quickly becoming one of Australia’s most common financial frauds.

ANZ’s research revealed that men are more likely to be the target of romance scams, however on average women are losing more money than men ($2.24 million currently under investigation), and appear to stay involved with the scammers for longer periods.

The research also found that Australians over the age of 55 years are more susceptible to romance scams.

“Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest times for online romance scammers. A friend request on Facebook or a message on a dating site from a stranger might be the start of a romance scam, so it’s absolutely vital to recognise the signs,” ANZ Managing Director of Retail Distribution, Catriona Noble said.

“Scammers typically use a false identity to capture your interest and build an emotional connection by revealing personal information, sending gifts or promising to visit – this is commonly known as catfishing,” she said.

“Once they’ve gained your trust, they’ll ask for money either directly or more subtly, for example by telling you they have a sick relative who needs money for treatment. It’s important to realise that anyone can be a potential target for scammers.”

Have you been the victim of a scam? How do you usually handle scammers?