Australians aged 45-64 are a favourite target for investment scams. This is also the age group most likely to downsize their home, and who have worked hard over decades to build up their property assets and superannuation.
Many empty-nesters, who chose to downsize will be left with a substantial sum of cash. The difference between the sale price of your old home and the purchase cost of your new downsizer property can add up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars, and this is part of the appeal of downsizing.
But do be careful how you invest this money. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning people to be wary of investment scams, which are costing ordinary Australians $4.3 million every month, with $26 million already reported as stolen so far this year.
Not surprisingly, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard has described these losses as “horrific”. Worryingly, the ACCC says people aged 45-64 are most at risk and make up more than half the reports sent to the Scamwatch website.
Two signs to look out for
The crooks behind the scams know exactly what they’re doing, and use convincing language and professional-looking websites to suck people in. But according to the ACCC there are two tell-tale signs to watch for to know if you’ve dealing with a con artist.
First, you’ll be contacted out of the blue. The contact may come via phone, test message or email but the common thread is that it’s the scammer – not you, who makes the initial contact.
Second, the scammer will try to lure you in with promises of low risk/high returns, opportunities to get rich quick, and may even claim to have some inside information, which they want to share to help you make money (uh huh…are the alarm bells ringing yet?).
Stick to reputable advice
If you’re sitting on a decent sum of cash as a result of downsizing, it is critical to seek quality, professional advice to make the most of this new-found nest egg. Do not be taken in by an unsolicited offer. If you are, chances are you won’t see the crims – or your money – again.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) maintains a register of companies you should not deal with, which is worth a look. It also pays to check out the ACCC’s Scamwatch website for regular updates of the latest scams doing the rounds.
With a bit of care it’s easy to avoid fraudsters, and enjoy the rewards – both personal and financial, that downsizing can provide.
Amanda Graham is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Seniors Housing Online and Downsizing.com.au