Scam alert: Fake investment scams
Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, has warned of a significant rise in the number of people falling foul of investment fraud.
Victims are being targeted across multiple online channels including adverts on social media and search engines, fake websites, cloned company websites and spoofed company email addresses.
These scams are sophisticated and can fool anyone, so be extra vigilant when browsing online, or communicating with anybody via email, telephone or social media. These all appear completely genuine but are in fact being run by organised crime groups.
What to watch out for
Look out for adverts promoting investment opportunities with well known, trusted financial institutions whose names we would all recognise. The returns being promised are often modest but slightly better than the market rate, appealing to those looking for long term, ‘safe’ investments.
When clicking on adverts users are taken to exact replicas of company websites, including cloned domain names. Once interest is registered, they will be contacted by sophisticated fraudsters, who are often incredibly charming, reassuring and with expert financial literacy.
Criminals will often use ‘social proof’ to legitimise their offer, often faking glowing reviews online from existing clients. These criminals often obtain the names of genuine employees and create seemingly legitimate company email addresses.
They also communicate with victims via telephone, again posing as the same genuine employees. They deploy extra techniques to make the process seem legitimate, for example they will often draw out the investment process so as not to arouse suspicion by rushing the victim.
How to avoid falling for these scams
The most important things to remember is if an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
We advise you familiarise yourself with the warning signs of a possible fraud, such as, unexpected contact, time pressures on making decisions, unrealistic returns, flattery and social proofing.
You can also test yourself to see whether you can spot an investment scam by taking the Scam or Smart quiz at https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/scam-or-smart-game.
What action should you take?
- Reject unsolicited investment offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.
- Always check the Financial Services Register (https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/financial-services-register) to make sure you are dealing with an authorised firm. You can also use this platform to check the FCA Warning List of firms to avoid.
- Only use the telephone number and email address listed on the FCA Register, not the contact details the firm gives you. Watch out for subtle differences.
- Always seek impartial advice before investing.
When faced with an investment opportunity, always follow the Take Five to Stop Fraud advice
Further information and support
- If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up.
- If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft, you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
- If you think you may have handed over your card details to scammers, please let us know immediately.