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Imposter bond investment scams

When scammers offer fake 'safe' investments

Page reading time: 6 minutes

Scammers pose as financial services companies or banks and offer fake 'low-risk' investment products, like bonds or fixed term deposits.

These scams target people searching online to compare and find the 'best' long-term or 'safe' investment options.

Because scammers impersonate real investment providers in these scams, they can be convincing. Follow the tips on this page to avoid getting caught out.

If someone contacts you about an investment you think could be a scam or you're concerned about a website, report it to warn others.

Be alert to imposter bond scams

Offers of fake bonds or fixed term deposits may not look risky. They may not include statements that are clearly 'too good to be true'.

To stay alert to these types of scams, be wary and check the details.

Don't trust surprise offers to invest 

A scammer may contact you with an investment offer, claiming to be from a well-known bank or investment company.

The people you speak to can seem knowledgeable, offering what appears to be a 'full service' brokerage. They will seem to be extra helpful, often promising fast processing times for the investment to proceed.

Scammers often impersonate real companies. They may use the name of a real person working at the bank or company they say they represent.

Be wary of surprise contact and independently verify who you are dealing with. For detailed steps, see check before you invest.

Look out for fake comparison websites and online enquiry forms

Scammers commonly set up fake comparison websites to lure investors. The website may list the types of investments available. But it may have little or no detail about the companies it claims to 'compare'.  

The scammers collect personal details like your name, email and phone number using enquiry forms on these fake comparison websites. They may ask for your investment goals, then use this information to target you with a fake investment offer.

They may ask for information to 'verify' your identity, like copies of your passport, driver's licence or electricity bill. The scammers can then use these documents to steal your identity.

Discuss with someone else

If you're making a large deposit, investment or money transfer, get someone you trust to check it first.

This could be a friend or family member, a finance professional, or a bank teller at your local branch. They may be able to spot something you have missed.

If the scammer gets your money, they may falsely confirm the deposit. They may send you paperwork about your 'investment' and say you'll get an interest payment in 6 or 12 months.

But they may quickly withdraw your money from the bank account. Once they do that, the money may be impossible to recover.

Be careful with bank accounts 

Look for signs of suspicious deposit or transfer details.

Look at the details 

Business contact details

A scammer may use promotional material or website excerpts from a well-known bank or investment company. This makes the investment seem 'real' and convincing. But they make small changes to the business contact details, like the address, phone number or email address.

Check these details against public information you find, including the websites of companies listed in the promotional material.

Persuasive language and false promises

Scam offers typically use the phrases 'guaranteed', 'secure' and 'free'. ASIC asks financial firms not to use these phrases.

Use of government logos 

In some cases, fake documents will include Australian Government logos. Financial firms are not allowed to use the Australian Coat of Arms or any government logo, such as ASIC, APRA, or AUSTRAC, to promote their products. If it includes a government logo, it's probably a scam. 

Learn how bonds work

Understand who can issue bonds and how to buy and sell them in Australia.

For example, large companies can issue bonds or term deposits themselves and don’t need other companies to ‘issue’ bonds on their behalf. Treasury or government bonds can only be issued by the federal, state, or local Australian Government.

Scammers may claim the bonds are covered by the Australian Government deposit guarantee and that you can cancel at any time. This is a lie.

To find out more, see investing in bonds.

Research the company

Search for the company online and review their website.

Not having an online presence doesn't mean a business is not real. Scammers sometimes pretend to be financial service businesses that are hard to find on the internet, so people can't check them out. 

Check AFCA's website for contact details of financial services businesses and use these details to reach out to them directly to check the legitimacy of the offer. 

Search the investor alert list

ASIC's investor alert list is a list of suspicious companies, businesses and websites that are not to be trusted. They may be unlicensed, operating illegally or impersonating real companies. Search the investor alert list.

What to do if you've been scammed

If you think you've been targeted by scammers, contact your financial institution immediately.

For steps to take and where to report it, see what to do if you've been scammed.

Man sitting on stool.

Pablo avoids an imposter bond scam

Pablo is looking for somewhere safe to invest the money from the recent sale of his house. He searches online for investments such as a bond or term deposit. Later that day he sees a social media ad to invest in bonds. 

The ad takes Pablo to an investment comparison website, and he completes an online enquiry form. Someone claiming to be from 'ABC Financial Services' contacts him. The caller offers Pablo bonds in a well-known bank. Pablo is not familiar with ABC Financial Services, but he has heard of the bank.

The caller says the bonds have a 5-year term, a 6% fixed interest rate, and are price-protected under a government scheme. They also say Pablo can cancel the bond if he is unhappy. They email him a prospectus and application form.

Pablo is cautious and decides to check the contact details against AFCA's list of financial firms. The email address is different. He calls ABC Financial Services using the phone number listed on AFCA's website. They confirm that he has not been talking to them but appears to be dealing with an imposter. 

Pablo decides not to invest with this person and blocks their calls and emails. He reports them to Scamwatch.