What is an investment scam?
Have you ever invested in something only to find it doesn’t exist? Perhaps a scammer impersonated an investment company and then pocketed your money? Or maybe they invested your money but have refused you access to it and / or have cleaned out the account? If, someone has offered you the opportunity to make money, but disappeared after you’ve transferred the cash, then it’s likely you’ve fallen victim to an investment scammer.
So, what is an investment scam? Investment scams are a type authorised push payment (APP) fraud, also known as a bank transfer scam. This is because the victim knowingly transfers the money to the scammer believing they are making a real, and therefore safe, investment. Unfortunately, for lots of people, looking to make a genuine investment, this is not the case and we’ve seen many people lose large sums of money after being targeted by investment scammers.
What to watch out for and how to protect yourself
Many investment scams involve bogus trading and brokerage firms, often impersonating FCA regulated firms or financial advisors, even cloning their websites, but changing the contact details to dupe unsuspecting victims. Our clients report feeling reassured when they initially see a return or investment gain - a ploy used by scammers to give them the impression that their trading has been a success - encouraging them to invest more. Ultimately, their returns stop, the value of their investments collapse, or their account is suspended, and they receive no further contact from the broker. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that’s not regulated, you risk losing all of your money and you may not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). If you are considering making an investment or want to check an investment you've made, we strongly advise you to use the FCA's ScamSmart service.
What are the most common types of investment / bank transfer scams?
This list is by no means exhaustive, but the majority of investment scams we receive, relate to the following type of scams:
Cryptocurrency, or ‘crypto’ as its sometimes known, is a digital currency that can be used to buy goods or services. Bitcoin is the most well-known cryptocurrency, but there are over 1,500 cryptocurrencies available to invest in. Unfortunately, for many of our clients, scammers have targeted them, either selling fake cryptocurrency or promising to invest in real cryptocurrency – in both cases, stealing their money instead.
Forex / Binary / Trading Scams
We’ve seen a rise in unauthorised forex trading and brokerage firms offering people the chance to ‘trade’ in foreign exchange, binary options, crypto assets and other commodities.
In addition to crypto and forex scams we’re also seeing a rise in people being duped into moving money out of their savings and into investments in unregulated products. We’ve had clients transfer their life savings to unauthorised firms selling a range of goods, including, but not limited to:
- Gold Scams
- Diamond Scams
- Graphene Scams
- Fine Wine Scams
- Property Scams
- Land Scams
Pension liberation scams
In addition to losing their savings, we have many clients who have been tricked into cashing out their pensions and other investments and sending their money to scammers. These can of course relate to any of the aforementioned scams, but we’ve also seen people being duped into investing in other high risk investments such as: overseas property and hotels; renewable energy bonds; forestry; parking and storage units to name a few. However, often it is just stolen, which can be absolutely devastating for victims who’ve worked hard their whole life to build up their pension pot.
How do investment scammers typically target their victims?
Fake Social Media Profiles
We often see scammers using social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to lure people into investing in cryptocurrencies, foreign exchange and binary options. The fraudsters set up very convincing profiles and share images of luxury items, such as expensive cars and watches, to entice people into investing.
Fake Websites / Cloned Websites
A lot of scammers go to the trouble of developing websites for fake investments or clone real websites to trick people into believing they’re a genuine, and regulated, financial adviser. Often scammers will arrange fake reviews in order to appear more trustworthy. They’ll also share links to social media / YouTube tutorials about the ‘investments’ they can make on your behalf, all to make them appear more legitimate.
Phishing Emails / Phishing Text Messages / Phishing Telephone Calls
Scammers will also use phishing emails, text messages or phone calls to lure people into making an investment. They may suggest it’s a time limited offer and that you must invest now in order to benefit (enticing you with promises of great returns / large profits).
What can I do to protect myself from investment scammers?
CEL Solicitors’ Top Tips to avoid investment scams are:
- Beware of companies contacting you unexpectedly e.g. cold calling you, texting you from an unknown number, messaging you on social media or emailing you out of the blue.
- Don’t be pressured into deciding due to a time limited offer, sign-up bonus or significant discount if you invest before a specific deadline.
- Similarly, be wary of people spamming you by repeatedly calling, texting or emailing you as they’re likely trying to pressure you into making a rushed decision.
- Keep in mind the familiar expression; if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If it’s low risk but high return, question whether it might be an investment scam.
- Be wary of people asking you to keep the investment quiet, suggesting it’s a limited offer, as it’s likely they don’t want you to take advice from someone who may ask you to reconsider.
- Check if they’re FCA registered (on the FCA website). In the UK, a firm must be authorised and regulated by the FCA to offer financial services so do your research. Use the FCA's ScamSmart service.
Can I get my money back from an investment scam?
If you’re among those people who have been targeted by an investment scammer then you are not alone. Investment scams are incredibly popular with fraudsters because people often invest large amounts of money when making an investment. If you’ve lost your hard-earned cash or been tricked into handing over your life savings, then we can help you get your money back.
We’re aware that many people feel distraught when they realise they have been tricked out of their savings but that is why it is so important to seek help. We are experts in fraud recovery and can help you get your money back, so you have nothing to lose by making an enquiry.
What will it cost me to make an investment scam claim?
Nothing upfront. We work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis so if you’re unsuccessful you won’t pay us a penny for our investigating this scam for you. However, if we are successful in getting your money back, then we deduct a success fee, capped at 25% plus VAT of anything we recover for you. It’s worth bearing in mind, we can also claim damages for stress, inconvenience and interest (at 8% from the date you lost your money) so if we’re successful in securing compensation, in addition to your money back, you can often get close to 100% of the money that you lost.
How do I know you are genuine?
Having experienced fraud, often by sophisticated and organised criminals, it is so important that you check anyone offering to help you get your money back. Scammers often revisit their victims under a different guise to scam them again, so you want to be sure you’re speaking with a professional advisor. To help you verify us, CEL Solicitors is a trading name of Cheshire Estates and Legal Limited (company number: 10370954). We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number: 633955). To check us out, you can visit the Law Society’s website and look us up using their ‘Find a Solicitor’ tool.
What else can I do to protect myself and others from scammers?
Your safety is paramount so if you ever feel under threat or forced to make an investment then you should contact the police immediately by dialling 999. If you don’t believe you’re at risk of harm, but you’re worried that you are currently being scammed, then contact the police by dialling 101. If the scam has already taken place then contact Action Fraud, a service run by the City of London Police, which is the national policing lead for economic crime. You should also notify your bank as soon as you discover you've been scammed.
What else should I be aware of?
When reporting fraud, it’s helpful to make a note of exactly what’s happened for when you’re speaking to the police, Action Fraud, your bank or a solicitor. Useful information includes:
- What the scammer told you, you were investing in
- Why you thought the scam was a legitimate investment
- What made you realise it was a fake investment / scam
- How the scammer targeted you
- What contact details / bank details you have for the scammer
This information will be crucial to starting your investment scam claim. At CEL Solicitors we offer a complete fraud and scam recovery service, which you can read more about here. So, if you’re among the countless people who’ve suffered as a result of an investment scam, then get in touch today to tell us what’s happened and start the process to get your money back now.
How can I get in touch to start my investment / bank transfer scam claim?
You can call us on 0808 273 0900 or start your claim online. Alternatively, you can fill out our contact form and a member of our scam recovery team will be in touch. We offer free initial, no obligation advice so you have nothing to lose by getting in touch and having a chat with one of our specially trained advisors.