FCA warns of copycat site offering investments

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a warning over an unauthorised firm moonlighting as an investments branch of the regulator.

The firm is using the name FCA Investments and has used the FCA’s logo on its website along with that of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which it says covers its investors.

The website associated with the faux firm encourages investors to inquire about regulated bond and fund opportunities offering annual up returns of up to 11.4 per cent.

The site says: “We offer a wide range of FCA-backed investments featuring market-beating annual returns, in-built capital protection and a broad range of investment terms.”

The firm also claims it works in partnership with “secure government-backed schemes” and has worked with Hargreaves Lansdown, JP Morgan, Jupiter Asset Management and Barclays.

The FCA says customers should double check firms’ authorisations on its site.

“We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation. Find out why to be especially wary of dealing with this unauthorised firm and how to protect yourself from scammers.

“If a firm does not appear on the register but claims it does, contact our consumer helpline. You should also be aware that if you give money to an unauthorised firm, you will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or FSCS if things go wrong.”

Women ‘victims in 63% of romance scams’

I was reading earlier, ahead of Valentine’s Day on Thursday, about recent scam data published by Action Fraud – the 4,555 instances of ‘romance fraud’ reported to the police reporting centre in 2018.

Some £50m was lost in such scams last year as fraudsters pretended to be romantically attached to their victims, says the piece. “Fraudsters trick victims into sending money or gather enough personal information to steal their identities,” it goes on to explain. “Police say victims are targeted via online dating websites, apps, or through social media. Fraudsters use fake profiles to form a relationship with them.”

The average age of a romance fraud victim is 50 and 63% of victims are women, according to Action Fraud, adding they lose twice as much on average as males. Dating site users are now being urged not to take everything at face value, says the BBC, noting: “Many people who have been caught out have judged those they met online based on their social media profile, their job, or simply trusting them too soon.”

Almost £200m lost through investment fraud in 2018

According to an article in “MoneyAge”, a News Sheet for IFAs, victims of investment fraud lost over £197m in 2018 as scammers use increasingly “sophisticated tactics” to persuade people to invest their savings, according to new figures from Action Fraud.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning to potential victims of investment scams today, 6 February, after it emerged that the average victim lost £29,000 last year, as fraudsters move away from cold calling and towards online techniques.

In August, The Pensions Regulator and the FCA joined forces to launch a campaign, ScamSmart, urging people to be aware of scammers targeting their pension savings, after they revealed an average of £91,000 was lost per victim in 2017.

The number of people visiting the ScamSmart website increased from 31,000 in the 55 days prior to the launch of the campaign to 173,000 in the 55 days after, according to FCA figures.

Of those who checked the FCA Warning List, 54 per cent had been contacted via online sources in 2018, up from 45 per cent the previous year.

FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight, Mark Steward, said: “Investment scams are becoming more and more sophisticated and fraudsters are using fake credentials to make themselves look legitimate.

“The FCA is working harder than ever to help protect the public against this threat. Last year we published over 360 warnings about potentially fraudulent firms. And we want to spread the message so we can all better protect ourselves from investment scams.”

In January, pensions cold-calling became illegal and companies caught nuisance calls could face enforcement actions and fines of up to £500,000.   Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, said: “Legislation to prevent pension cold calling will help to some extent, but investors shouldn’t be lulled into thinking they’re home and dry.

“To fully fight fraud a considerable amount of work needs to be carried out to inform people and the over 55s in particular, that cold calling is illegal and they need to continue to be on their guard. A government led campaign to keep this issue in the limelight would help to combat the scourge of fraud.”

According to Action Fraud, investments in shares and bonds, forex and cryptocurrencies by unauthorised firms accounted for 85 per cent of suspected investment scams in 2018.

The FCA warned the people must be extra vigilant during Q1, the peak investment season.  These include the following six:- 

  • unexpected contact,
  • time pressure,
  • social proof,
  • unrealistic returns,
  • false authority and
  • flattery.

Last month, the Insolvency Service said it has applied to wind-up 24 companies, connected to 3,750 scam victims, since 2015.


Savers urged to be vigilant after fraudsters steal £202m from pensions

I noticed this piece in the Mail on Sunday and found it to be very disturbing.

The Insolvency Service, which is a part of the Department for Business, has shut down some 24 companies guilty of pension abuse since 2015, according to this Mail on Sunday piece. Around 3,750 victims have been affected, including both individuals and businesses, with losses amounting to more than £200m. Eight company directors have been disqualified for a combined 57 years as a result of the victims’ losses, the article adds.

“There is no room for complacency,” warns Aviva head of savings and retirement Alistair McQueen. “We may spend 40 years saving, so we should spend more than 40 minutes considering our options at retirement.”

Consumer minister Kelly Tolhurst adds: “If you are approached to make an investment from your pension, always do your homework and seek independent advice. If you think you are a victim, report it to Action Fraud or visit the Scam-Smart website for further help.”

Please, if you know someone who is considering taking their pension without taking proper Independent Financial advice, try and persuade them to take advice from a Financial Adviser who is  regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and who authenticity can be verified.


Email Scams

I’ve just read in a well respected Financial Periodical that a Financial Adviser in England has received an email from a Hitman that suggested a Competitor of the Adviser wanted his ‘head on a stick’ and requested £5,000 be sent to an anonymous Bitcoin account to spare his life.

They added that usually they would just “do the work without going into the details” but instead this time they planned to go away on a “long-awaited vacation”.

If the Adviser went to the “cops”, the email warned, it would only postpone his “doomsday” further.

Why do I tell you this?  Because last week I got the same type of email.  Like the English IFA I am treating it with the contempt it deserves (as I look nervously over my shoulder!)

Scammers seem to be finding more and more ways of threatening the ordinary man or woman and unfortunately it is the weak and vulnerable that is likely to be taken in.  Emails are a wonderful method of communication but there is a downside too.

You probably already know this but, beware the expressions “Dear Valued Customer” or “Security Alert” or “A delivery attempt was made”.

I liked the cartoon I saw recently of a Royal Prince in an unnamed African Country trying to get his genuine fortune out of that country but was unable to find anyone to accept his grateful offer of 10% commission for the work he wanted them to do.  Regrettably, I think more often it is a scam!


Scammers posing as legal and financial professionals

It would appear that more and more people are falling victim to scammers posing as professionals from financial and legal services, Citizens Advice has warned.

A recent report has indicated that such professional scams now account for a fifth of all scams reported to the charity’s consumer service helpline after seeing a 6 per cent upswing in reported cases this financial year.

According to the Charity they analysed 6,426 cases of scams from its Consumer Service helpline comparing available data from October 2016 to April 2017, to October 2017 to April 2018.  The median financial loss, the ‘middle’ value recorded for all scams over this period was £330.

Citizens Advice is urging anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam to report it to authorities, through Action Fraud and the Citizens Advice consumer service.

The chief executive of the service said: “Fraudsters are using new technology to peddle old tricks, posing as trustworthy professionals with persuasive offers.

“Anyone can fall victim to these sophisticated scams, but all too often it’s the victim rather than the scammer who are left feeling sheepish. This isn’t right.

“So, this year we want to break down the stigma around these serious crimes, which are targeted across all levels of society, yet remain under-reported.”

In one case recorded by Citizens Advice a former finance professional fell for a sophisticated clone investment scam after investing £25,000 in a company she thought was legitimate.

The scammer had set up a clone website in a regulated investment company’s name so it appeared legitimate.

Consumer Minister and Conservative MP for Burton, Andrew Griffiths, said: “Scams like these can have devastating financial and personal costs to those affected.

“Anyone can fall victim, young or old, which is why I am pleased to work with Citizens Advice to break the stigma and encourage people to speak up.”

He said the government has been cracking down on scams, with National Trading Standards stopping more than 8 million items of scam mail in the past year alone.