The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has been increasingly active across investment crimes launched across social media applications, last year even entering a “pump-and-dump” operation that sought to artificially inflate share prices of meme stocks and other popular shares and penny stocks.
ASIC declined to comment on the latest iteration of attempted fraud perpetuated on unsuspecting punters, but a spokesman said: “We will examine the information and factor it into our broader work in combatting market-related scams.”
“And that includes engaging directly with the brokers named in those postings, just as we did with issuer firms whose identity was used in the recent imposter bond scams,” the ASIC spokesman said.
A Shaw & Partners source confirmed: “This is a fraud.”
Shaw & Partners notified ASIC but doubted anything could be done about the matter.
Market sources said they had also seen scammers impersonating Canaccord Genuity and Ord Minnett.
A spokeswoman for First Sentier said: “Unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise, and hence our Global Information Security team continues to enhance business monitoring and detection capabilities, and educate staff on potential attacks.”
“We encourage all consumers to carefully check the detail of messages they receive, and to not click on any suspicious links. If you receive any of these types of messages, we recommend reporting them to Scamwatch.”
In the WhatsApp message threads, fraudulent versions of real-life brokers are seen discussing market movements such as the price of oil rising after Russia unleashed war in Ukraine, and suggesting investments in New York-listed Centrus Energy Corp or Devon Energy Corp.
Another message encourages piling into NASDAQ-listed Heron Therapeutics. In one message, Heron Theraputics is recommended as the company’s “financial situation has changed from loss to healthy development”.
The numbers attached to the Telegram accounts have a UK international phone code. Calls to the number go to a voicemail message recorded by a person with a British accent.
Criminals have been increasingly exploiting the vast array of information published online by investment groups and their employees, and The Australian Financial Review last year revealed how suspected criminals were exploiting vulnerabilities in Google searches and Australian cryptocurrency infrastructure to lure retail investors through bogus comparison websites and dupe them with the promise of high-yield funds badged by some of the world’s most trusted brands.
The complex scheme involved stolen identities, several British scammers impersonating real-world bankers, and fraudulent prospectuses that claimed to represent high-yield investment funds run by global managers such as Citibank, Nomura, HSBC, Pimco and IFM Investors.
It has ensnared millions of dollars from victims who sought better returns as interest rates collapsed during the COVID-19 crisis.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has previously sounded the klaxon on the “attack of the clone firms”. More than £78 million ($135.7 million) had been stolen in calendar 2020 by scammers impersonating big financial institutions, it said.
Between March and April last year, clone firm investment scams in the UK surged 29 per cent. Here, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, losses to scams nearly doubled to $211 million over the past year.