Tony Camilleri is a successful business man and architect. But his story proves that, contrary to what many might assume, anyone can fall victim to a scam.

For Mr Camilleri, it started with a phone call. 

“I was identified as a vulnerable prospective investor, and [the scammers] convinced me very professionally that their business was legitimate — and I fell for it hook, line and sinker,” he says.

“In fact, I was nicknamed the big fish. I fell for it so badly.”

Mr Camilleri took the bait and made 11 trades, each one bigger than the last. Before long, he had invested $1.8 million. When alarm bells started to ring, he travelled to America where the investment company claimed to be based — only to learn the whole thing was a scam.

Ken Gamble, a private investigator hired by Mr Camilleri, explains to Anatomy of a Scam host Deborah Knight that scams are big business.

“It’s becoming an industry,” he says. “There are call centres that literally have thousands of employees. It’s becoming such a large scale that it’s structured no differently to a multinational corporation.”

Australians lose more money to investment scams than any other type of scam – by a big margin. According to Scamwatch, nearly $300 million was lost in the first nine months of 2022, and more than $700 million was lost in 2021 – and given only 30 per cent of victims report their losses, the true numbers are likely to be considerably higher.

James Roberts, General Manager of Group Fraud at Commonwealth Bank, says it’s “very difficult” to recover money lost in an investment scam.

“The first thing you need to do is tell your bank this has happened,” he tells Ms Knight. “That disproportionately increases the chances of a recovery. If you were to wait for weeks, generally speaking, the money will be gone.”

To hear Tony Camilleri’s story, listen to Anatomy of a Scam on your preferred podcast app.

Anatomy of a Scam — episode 3


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