Cryptocurrency scam losses hit new high in Queensland as cost of living bites

Queenslanders have lost nearly $40 million to investment scams including cryptocurrency swindles this year — the highest loss ever recorded in the state.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) figures from January 1 to August 28, show Queenslanders lost $38.6 million in investment scams.

At the same time last year, Queenslanders had been defrauded of just $19.8 million.

Nationally, $263 million has been lost this year, almost double the losses in 2021.

One of the state’s top financial crime police officers says the new breed of crypto-scammers are increasingly using sophisticated strategies to lure their victims in, including posing as celebrities and even as Queensland police officers on social media.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have also called cryptocurrency an “emerging threat” with one report every eight minutes last financial year, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year. 

Cryptocurrency investment scams are the main driver of the increase and a record number of Queenslanders are paying the price.  

Here are their stories.

‘Groomed’ and ‘conned’

Sunshine Coast woman Ella (not her real name) lost her life savings through a sophisticated and intricate scheme.

Over a five-week period, she said she was “groomed” and “conned” to make three deposits of $34,000 to what she believed to be a legitimate web-trading platform.

“My bank … didn’t come up with any warning signs that would have made me think: ‘This is a bit dodgy’,” she said.

After depositing the funds, the money was converted into cryptocurrency accessible via a “wallet” address.

She said the online portfolio appeared to correlate with the stock exchange giving the illusion that it was legitimate.

“The thing is, none of it is real,” Ella said.

A man looking at a big screen.
Cryptocurrency scammers are generally based overseas making them harder to track.(ABC News: Mary Lloyd)

“The minute it leaves [the web trading platform] to that wallet address … it goes into all these accounts all over the world and it’s impossible to actually follow up on any of these accounts from this one wallet address.”

After Ella’s third and final deposit she tried to pull her money out because alarm bells rang and she had “nothing else in the tank”.

She was told by scammers to remortgage her house or turn to credit. 

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