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Danny Allen

Crypto Scams in Australia: Tips to Spot, Stay Safe - RelayPay

December 5, 2023
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5 min

Aussies reported at least $3.1 billion in financial losses to scams last year, according to the annual report published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in April 2023. Of that, about 7.1% ($221.3 million) featured cryptocurrency as the payment method.

With scammers becoming more creative, here are some tips to help keep you safe — to share with your friends and colleagues.

In this guide

Who is being targeted?
What are the most common scams?
10 tips to avoid crypto & investment scams
How RelayPay is helping increase scam awareness

Who is being targeted?

Scamwatch data reveals the average investment scam victim is likely to be aged 65 or over. They may meet the scammer on social media or a mobile app and respond to a fraudulent deal or an advertisement. Possibly even be contacted by phone. These scammers work hard and are convincing, setting up scams to be paid by cryptocurrency or bank transfer after sometimes several months.

That said, those aged 34-44 reported the highest increase in losses last year. Other scams targeted Millennials.

What are the most common scams?

Trending investment scams in the report included imposter bonds, initial public offerings (IPOs), family impersonation and money recovery services. Often targeting older Australians and those who’ve already been scammed. Other scams to be on high alert for include:

Money mule: Where someone is recruited to receive or send dollars / crypto from another scam victim, criminal group or elsewhere. They allow their account to be used to move funds. This can be knowingly for a commission. Or they may be completely unaware, they themselves being scammed to follow instructions from a third party — a “friend”, “broker”, “new financial advisor”, “employer” or “romantic partner”. Money mules can be prosecuted if they break the law.

"We are seeing the use of money mule accounts in the majority of reports that we receive,” the ACCC told ABC earlier this year.

Relationship and romance baiting scams: “In 2022, many high loss investment scams occurred in the context of a long-term friendship or relationship that commenced on social media or a dating application,” according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Once there’s trust, the victim is often encouraged to help create an account on a cryptocurrency platform. In the US, money scams promising romance rank above all other fraud schemes, according to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Fake cryptocurrency exchanges: Do your own research before choosing a crypto exchange that stores your crypto. Even better, use a non-custodial exchange like RelayPay to buy your Bitcoin. We deliver the digital currency you purchase to your own wallet that you control. It can be a mobile wallet, hardware wallet or exchange wallet. Your keys, your crypto.

Investment “opportunities”: Unsuspecting users are directed by a third party to register for trading or “crypto mining” websites and apps. Their “investment” may initially increase in value only to see funds disappear or be locked out from withdrawals.

Employment scams: Often targeting 24-34 year olds on social media platforms, including WhatsApp. These tend to be “easy money” work-from-home schemes with “employers” you never meet in person asking you to process or forward funds, open trading accounts or crypto wallets, send funds to receive higher amounts and more. 

Remote access: Almost all remote access scams begin with a phone call and end with losses via bank transfer. Through fake threats and scares of hacks in progress, or tech support problems, the victim is tricked into allowing remote access to a computer through software such as TeamViewer. Australians aged 65 and over reported losing the most money to these scams.

Fake crypto giveaways: You’ve probably seen these promoted on hacked or fake celebrity Twitter accounts. Even YouTube ads featuring AI deepfakes or spammed comment sections. Don’t be lured in. And don’t send crypto with the promise of receiving a greater sum in return.

Phishing: The most commonly reported scam is now most commonly sent via fake links in phone text messages. Though email scam reports also increased over 50% last year. “Vishing” (fraudulent phone calls) are also on the rise. Phishing scams tend to impersonate big brands and government organisations. Since July 2023, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has taken down more than 2,500 investment scam and phishing websites.

Man-In-The-Middle Attack: Avoid accessing your crypto or bank accounts while on public Wi-Fi, including on your phone. It’s possible for scammers to intercept your details.

Airdrop scams: Be wary of interacting with random tokens or NFTs that suddenly appear in your wallet with your prior knowledge. Worst case: You can inadvertently provide permissions that might allow scammers to access and syphon out all of a wallet’s assets.

Ponzi schemes, rug pulls and pump & dumps: It’s always important to ensure you fully understand a business before considering investing in it, especially in crypto. Read whitepapers, research the team, tokenomics and marketing efforts. Don’t just jump into the latest trending memecoin for fear of missing out. Just like any asset class, including share trading, be on alert for Ponzi schemes (where newer investor earnings are really paid by earlier investors) and Rug Pulls (where a promoter of a crypto or NFT project suddenly disappears, with investor assets). These may come as part of a “pump and dump” where a group buys an asset at a lower price, artificially inflates it via orchestrated social media hype and positive statements, then sells (dumps) the asset on unsuspecting buyers.

10 tips to avoid crypto & investment scams

As the ACCC advises: “stop, think and protect yourself”. Don’t feel rushed into a sense of urgency. Learn from the common scams above and ask yourself if something doesn’t feel right.

2. If you have been scammed, you’re not alone. Act fast: Contact your bank or crypto exchange immediately. If you did provide personal information, take steps to protect your identity at — Australia and New Zealand's national identity & cyber support service. Reach out to services like Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) or Lifeline (13 11 14) for emotional support.

3. Follow and on social media to stay across the latest scam trends. And report scams to help prevent others from falling victim.

4. Never send money or crypto to someone you don’t know. Especially if it’s at the direction of someone you’ve never met in person.

5. Don’t sign up to crypto wallets, trading platforms or mobile apps you’ve never heard of. Especially if it’s at the direction of a third party. If you are interested in buying crypto, choose an Australian exchange that’s AUSTRAC registered. You’ll usually find this info at the bottom of the homepage. For instance, RelayPay is fully registered with AUSTRAC as a Digital Currency Exchange services provider (DCE100597854-001) and as an Independent Remittance Dealer (IND100597854-001).

6. If a job offer or investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t pay a fee to get a job. Beware of unsolicited contact on social media promising “easy money” or “low risk, high returns.”

7. Don’t provide your credit card details, banking information or remote access to a business you don’t know. If it sounds urgent, you can always contact a financial institution or government body yourself directly (using a publicly listed number) to clarify authenticity.

Use your own bookmarks to visit your bank or crypto exchange. Don’t click through from search results, emails or text messages. If you do, hover over the link first to check the site is genuine before clicking.

9. Be extra careful installing browser extensions (especially those that interact with crypto). And regularly scan your device for malware such as “address switchers” that can be triggered when you copy a string of letters and numbers resembling a crypto address.

10. Finally, be wary of any business or individual that insists you must only pay them in crypto.

How RelayPay is helping to protect customers

RelayPay is committed to helping drive crypto's safe and healthy growth.

✅ We’ve partnered with Merkle Science to monitor transactions, screen wallets against blacklists and meet compliance obligations.

✅ RelayPay will never send you an SMS or email that asks for your password, asks you to share your crypto wallet key with us, or include a link to login directly from SMS or email. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from RelayPay and you are unsure, do not give out any details.

✅ In addition to this dedicated guide on spotting and avoiding scams, we also provide several scam alerts during the process of buying crypto.

✅ RelayPay is regulated by AUSTRAC and is required to take steps to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Accordingly, all users of our service may be subject to Know Your Customer or Know Your Bank processes (as applicable). This requires that we verify your identity, inline with our privacy policy. We use a third party provider who is a registered identity service provider to perform this identity verification for us.

✅ There are an increasing number of updates coming from RelayPay’s banking provider about enhancing our due diligence for new users. For this reason, and to help protect vulnerable groups —  we may be required to video chat with certain new accounts (or query the source of funds via bank statements) before approving Buy Crypto access.

✅ Got a question that isn’t covered here or in the RelayPay Frequently Asked Questions?
Use our contact form or live chat to connect with the team. Chat support is available 7 days a week during the Australian Eastern Daylight Savings hours shown below.

Read next: RelayPay wins Best Banking & Payments Innovation in Finder Innovation Awards

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