A scam call centre in Manila set up to steal retirement funds by posing as an Australian company was raided by Cybercrime investigation company IFW Global and the Philippines National Police this month, an ABC 7:30 report has revealed.
The scam orchestrators aimed to gather critical information from victims by pretending to be a bona fide Australian operation, according to IFW Global, which began an investigation in 2020 after receiving intelligence about a criminal group in Manila who were targeting Australian SMSFs.
To uncover the culprits behind the scam, IFW operatives in the Philippines performed surveillance and gathered covert intelligence.
The perpetrators posed as Australian Securities Administration Limited (ASAL), a legitimate and licensed company.
In reality, the boiler room operation was merely a clone used to convince victims to divulge details about their superannuation accounts, said IFW Global.
IFW filed a formal criminal complaint with the Philippines National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG).
On September 9, 2022, the PNP-ACG Cyber Response Unit worked with IFW operatives to conduct two raids in Pasig – one on an office and another on a residential property.
During the office raid, the PNP-ACG detained 29 Filipino workers and seized a number of mobile phones, computers and other devices under a cyber warrant issued by the Philippine Court.
Meanwhile, other PNP-ACG operatives raided the residence of a 53-year-old British national who allegedly owned the business behind the call centre. Both he and his wife were taken into custody for questioning. No charges have been laid.
All detainees were released pending further investigation into possible violation of Section 4(b)(2) (Computer-related Fraud) and Section 5(a) (Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The private investigator warned that SMSF scams like this one were becoming increasingly prevalent.
“Tempted by the large sums and equipped with the advanced technology to devise sophisticated schemes, more and more scammers around the world are trying to get their hands on Australian pensions,” it said.
Based on figures from the ACCC, $701 million was lost to investment fraud in 2021 alone.
In comments provided to the ABC, ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said that ASIC had written to AMP last year alerting it to the potential misuse of Australian Securities Administration Limited’s name and Australian Financial Services Licence and in response, AMP published a warning on its website.
The corporate regulator said: “ASIC also issued its own warning about these types of scams in May last year highlighting the need for consumers to exercise great caution whenever contacted to open a SMSF account, and to always seek independent, trustworthy advice.
“These matters are a powerful reminder that Australians need to treat contact by any third parties in relation to their investment and superannuation choices with the maximum caution.”
In its warning issued last year, ASIC said that some of the common tactics being deployed by scammers targeting superannuation included contacting people by email or a cold call, pretending to be financial advisers, and encouraging them to transfer their superannuation into a new SMSF.
The investor was often promised high returns of 8 per cent to 20 per cent or more per annum.
ASIC said before investing, investors should check ASIC Offer Notice Board to see if the prospects relates to a recent offer registered with ASIC and check ASIC’s register of Australian financial services licensees to make sure any party promoting or issuing the financial product is licensed or is authorised by a licensee.
They should also check ASIC’s Moneysmart list of companies you should not deal with, and confirm the website details and phone number listed on their main website to verify the legitimacy of the financial product or investment.
“Never trust the telephone numbers or email addresses provided to you in unsolicited emails or cold calls,” it warned.
It also advised investors to obtain independent financial advice about the investment.
05 October 2022
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