If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Many Australian businesses have received calls or emails from overseas “financial companies” offering exciting investment opportunities or loans, subsequently being scammed and losing millions of dollars.

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) provides valuable advice to help Australian companies from becoming the next victim.

Why do overseas scammers target Australians?

Overseas scam companies or malicious individual actors target Australians with the knowledge that the relevant Australian regulatory authority (ASIC) does not have international jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute them for their financial crimes.

ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator, but this power does not extend beyond Australia.

Unlicensed companies

If you have been contacted by an unknown company, the first step is checking the list of unlicensed companies with whom you should not deal.

ASIC provides a list of unlicensed companies which have made unsolicited calls and emails to Australians and do not hold a current Australian financial services (AFS) licence or Australian credit licence from ASIC.

At the time of writing, the list consists of over 1200 companies and can be downloaded in an excel spreadsheet from the ASIC website.

ASIC notes that “although new names are added as quickly as possible, this is not a comprehensive list.”

What if a name is not on the list?

If a company’s name is not on the list, the following avenues should be explored:

Check for a licence

Search for the name on ASIC Connect’s Professional Registers to see if they are licensed.

If the company or person is not licensed, do not deal with them and report them.

Check overseas lists

Through the International Organization of Securities Commissions website you can check who regulates companies in a specific country. You can then contact the appropriate overseas regulator or search its website to ensure that a specific company is registered or licensed by them.

Check the address

The company’s stated address should be cross-checked with the address held by the regulator, as well as with a phone directory. This will help to ensure you are dealing with the company itself and not a malicious actor pretending to be that company.

What if you have been scammed?

Unfortunately, because overseas companies are out of ASIC’s jurisdiction, it cannot prosecute them and can’t help victims recover losses.

However, reporting scams to ASIC helps them to warn other Australians and notify the regulator in the relevant country, who may pursue the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.