Want a sure bet?  Then get involved in sports arbitrage – it's a fast way to lose money.

That's the warning from the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce during this year's Consumer Fraud Week, 2-8 March.

"More than $20 million may have been lost by Australian consumers in such schemes," Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce Chairman, Mr Peter Kell, cautioned.

"Consumer protection agencies, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, have received large numbers of complaints about promoters of such rackets.

"But the people who usually make the money are the promoters, not the punters.

"About 50 per cent of complainants report that once they have paid their money, they are unable to contact the company they dealt with – it simply melts away.

"Sports arbitrage involves gambling on sporting events which have two different teams. It is promoted on the basis that bookmakers will either differ on which team will win or 'make a mistake'.

"The operators claim they can spot these 'opportunities' and take the best odds on offer by different bookies so that money is won (supposedly) regardless of the outcome.

"Such schemes are littered with words such as 'trading', 'investment' or 'guaranteed returns'.

"These schemes are simply nothing more than gambling and in some cases they may be a scam. The operators aim is solely to part you from your money.  Consumers should exercise a great deal of scepticism regarding anything labelled 'sports arbitrage' ," Mr Kell said.

Investigators from Federal and State agencies are working together to highlight the schemes risks to vulnerable consumers.

Detective Inspector Jason Saunders, of the Queensland State Crime Operations Command Fraud and Corporate Crime Group, said: "We are currently investigating companies which are based on the Gold Coast and alleged to have been involved in fraudulent activities.

"There are reports of victims paying high entry fees only to find out there were no bets actually being placed and their money has gone missing. 

"We urge anyone who has been a victim of one of these schemes to come forward and provide us information. The police will continue to work with the other agencies to combat these types of fraudulent schemes."

It is highly recommended that consumers consider getting advice from a licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Queensland Police has launched a web page to assist the public in providing information specific to arbitrage gambling schemes. To pass on information about these schemes contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit the new online information reporting system at www.police.qld.gov.au/SportsArbitrage

The Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is made up of 18 government and non-government partners and is running National Consumer Fraud Week.

Consumers who feel they may have been victims of scams, or want to report a possible scam, should visit SCAMwatch, www.scamwatch.gov.au, a website maintained by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Media inquiries: Ms Lin Enright, ACCC Media, (02) 6243 1108 or 0414 613 520

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