Financial Conduct Authority launches ‘Scamsmart’ campaign to combat investment fraud

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched a national campaign entitled ‘Scamsmart’ which is designed to warn of the dangers concerning investment fraud and how potential scams might be spotted.

A massive £1.2 billion is lost to investment fraud in the UK every year, with the victims of this criminality losing £20,000 each on average. The fraudsters use a number of tactics to entice their victims into investing in products which don’t exist (for example land-banking schemes, carbon credits and rare earth metals).

The FCA believes that those most at risk of investment fraud are people in retirement who are actively seeking to find a good return on their savings. One consumer told the FCA that he was called out of the blue by a firm that offered to buy the shares he held in a company. The deal sounded legitimate and the website looked professional. It wasn’t until the individual concerned was asked to pay a £5,000 bond to enable the deal to go through that they became suspicious.

Investment scams generally involve high-pressured selling using boiler room tactics for products which often don't exist (including land-banking schemes, carbon credits and rare earth metals)

Investment scams generally involve high-pressured selling using boiler room tactics for products which often don’t exist (including land-banking schemes, carbon credits and rare earth metals)

Martin Wheatley, CEO of the FCA, commented: “Those operating investment scams use very sophisticated techniques to build trust and can dupe even experienced investors out of their savings. With large numbers of people at risk, it’s important to know how to spot the signs of a potential scam. We would caution against anyone taking a risk on a firm or individual who isn’t authorised by the FCA. Our message is simple: don’t accept a cold call.”

City of London Police Commander Steve Head, who is also the Police National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime, added: “For many years now, tackling investment fraud has been a major priority for the City of London Police. It’s a crime that hits older people hardest, with the victims losing money they’ve worked hard to save their whole lives and often destroys retirement plans.”

Head continued: “The City of London Police is fully supportive of the FCA’s campaign and backs its call for people to always hang up on cold callers. If anyone does fall victim to an investment fraud, it’s vital they report the matter to Action Fraud in order to give law enforcement the best chance of tracking down those responsible and dismantling their criminal operations”.

Key signs of a potential investment fraud

There are several key signs that an investment fraud might be in play. These are as follows:

*You are contacted unexpectedly about an investment opportunity through a cold call, e-mail or a follow-up call after receiving a promotional brochure out of the blue
*You’re pressured to invest in a time-limited offer (or example a bonus or discount is promised if you invest before a set date)
*The risks to your money are downplayed (for example you’re told that you will own assets you can sell yourself if the investment doesn’t work as expected or legal jargon is used to suggest the investment is very safe)
*The returns sound too good to be true (ie better interest rates are stated than those offered elsewhere)
*You are called repeatedly and kept on the phone for a long time
*You’re told that the offer is only available for a limited time or to a limited group of people

For further information visit the FCA’s Scamsmart website

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