The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has revealed it conducted an April Fool's joke which saw 233 people part with more than $4 million over the Internet.
On the way to becoming a yearly event, the ASIC set up a phony investment scheme to highlight the willingness of people to invest in companies they know nothing about, said ASIC media spokesperson Irene O'Brien. This year the joke involved setting up a fake investment site on the Internet for people to invest in a company offering blue chip companies insurance against losses from the year 2000 date change.
"We chose the Internet as this year's April Fools day investment scam because some people, who might normally question the validity of an investment offer, seem to think that offers on the Internet come with some authority," said Alan Cameron, ASIC chairman.
With 233 people committing themselves to $10,000 and $50,000 investments exceeding $4 million in total, Cameron said the ASIC is "unapologetic" about using these unorthodox means to highlight the dangers of fraudulent investment schemes to the public.
The revelation of the ASIC Internet hoax follows the recent formation of a new electronic enforcement unit within ASIC, set up to police Internet investment fraud.
"While the Internet has been around for some time, regulators have moved up a gear to monitor the growing number of investment offers being made to the public," Cameron said.