Investment scams: what they are and how to avoid them

25 October 2023

On the rise – and harder to spot 

Scams and fraud increased 23% in the first quarter of 2023 – and it’s not just the sheer number of scams that’s on the rise. The amount of money lost is increasing, too. According to data from CERT NZ, Kiwis lost nearly $6 million to scammers in the first quarter of 2023, a 66% increase from the previous quarter.

Investment scams can be particularly damaging because they typically involve large amounts of money, such as a person’s retirement savings. With new scams emerging all the time, it’s more important than ever to understand how these scams work, how to spot them, and what you can do to help keep your money safe.

How they work

An investment scam aims to trick you into investing in a fake business opportunity or financial product. Scammers will often lure you with the promise of big returns, low risk, and exclusive insider information.

Many scammers are experts at impersonating real businesses, which is why they can seem so believable. The scams are often elaborate, involving Google ads, slick-looking websites, detailed financial presentations, or in-depth phone conversations. The person on the other end of the line sounds just like a financial adviser or company representative. You might even receive a glossy investment prospectus in the mail.

By the time you realise you’ve sent your savings to a scammer, it’s often difficult to recover the money.

What to look out for

Investment scams often start with the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’. You might be offered the chance to purchase shares in a company, buy cryptocurrency, or invest your savings in a term deposit, foreign exchange, or gold and other precious metals.

All of these can be legitimate investments – but they’re also common signs of an investment scam. Is there urgency behind the offer or pressure to decide quickly so you don’t ‘miss out’? This is a common tactic of scammers and should raise an instant red flag.

Tips to help protect your money 

If you’re approached with an offer to invest, or exploring an investment opportunity, it’s important to make sure it’s legitimate before handing over your money. If it’s too good to be true, or comes out of the blue, it could be a scam. 

Be sceptical 

Always be cautious if you’re presented with any unexpected investment opportunity. You should be sceptical if it comes from:

  • A company that isn’t registered with regulatory agencies or doesn’t provide clear information
  • An unexpected phone call or social media chat from someone you don’t know, even if they appear to be from a real company.

Be wary of scam websites when searching online for investment opportunities. Scammers will often build sophisticated websites that look just like the real deal. 

The best advice is to only deal with people you know and trust. If something doesn’t seem right or is unexpected, question it.

Do your research 

Before investing money, research the company, the investment opportunity, and the people behind it. Look for information from independent sources, including regulatory agencies, financial analysts, and trusted news sites. Use the contact details on official company websites to check whether the person you’ve been speaking to really works there. 

Take your time to look into it thoroughly – even if you’re being pressured to decide. And before you do anything with your money, talk to a licensed financial adviser or investment professional. 

Manage your social media profiles

Be careful with how much you share on social media. Scammers can use what you share to gain your trust or see where you might be vulnerable.

Be cautious about talking to people you don’t know online – even if they seem to be from reputable organisations. It’s a good idea to check your privacy settings regularly to make sure you aren’t sharing more information than you’re comfortable with. 

Important information

This information is prepared by ANZ New Zealand Investments Limited for information purposes only.

We recommend seeking financial advice about your situation and goals before getting a financial product. Please talk to your financial adviser if you need financial advice. If you don’t have a financial adviser, please contact us and we will put you in touch with one.

Past performance does not indicate future performance. The actual performance realised by any given investor will depend on many things, is not guaranteed, and may be negative as well as positive.

While we’ve taken care to ensure the information is reliable, we don’t warrant its accuracy, completeness, or suitability for your intended use. To the extent the law allows, we don’t accept any responsibility or liability arising from your use of or reliance on this information.