January 27, 2022 12.07 am

I nearly lost 25K to fraudsters

Thankfully he was refunded the full amount.

At the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2021, the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, was nearly scammed out of £25,000 to investment fraudsters.

The victim, a man in his 70s from Grantham, had been doing his research and was interested in purchasing fixed-term bonds that would offer a better return on investment compared to an Individual Savings Account or ISA. After inputting his details on a website, he was contacted by four companies offering to sell corporate bonds.

“I didn’t know much about corporate bonds, so I got all four companies to send me their details so I can continue doing my research and checks. I discounted one of them straight away because they weren’t covered by the Financial Services. After doing my checks, one of the companies seemed pretty good so I decided I would go with that company once I’ve done all my checks. I emailed them and asked for further details, including their address, website, email addresses, and telephone numbers” he explained.

He also asked for the financial advisor’s name, details, and qualifications. Once everything was sent over, he checked everything and even did a search for the advisor and found him on LinkedIn.

“I also asked for their terms of trade and they sent me a nine-page contract which I printed off. I got a friend who isn’t a fully qualified solicitor to take a look at it and he said it looks pretty good, so I decided to invest with them. They sent me all the bank details and I checked those out. Everything just seemed to look pretty good” he said.

After conducting further research and checks on the company, he decided to invest with them.

“I thought I’d just send £5,000 to start with so I went onto my bank to put in a transfer. They didn’t give me any warnings, which was very surprising in hindsight, and I ended up investing £25,000.”

Over the course of six weeks, the fraudster, posing as a financial advisor, had built a relationship with the victim. He kept in regular contact, even after the money was sent, making the interaction seem more legitimate.

“He kept in touch. He was very friendly, wasn’t pushy. Everything seemed very professional. He rang me once a week asking if I’m alright, if I’m happy with the investment and to give him a ring if I wanted to invest more money. I left the investment for a couple of months then rang the financial advisor who said they had more corporate bonds coming up and to contact him if I was interested.”

Another week went by and he decided to contact the financial advisor to enquire about the bonds – but there was no answer. He sent an email to the company, but this time, he’d missed a hyphen out. Half an hour later, he received a phone call from a gentleman, informing him that they had no advisor by that name and that their company had been cloned by fraudsters.

“I was gutted. I felt a total idiot. I thought I’d done everything possible with the checks I was doing. I felt I let myself down, my family down because I didn’t spot a scam where I should’ve done and that was the worst bit about it. Finding out I had been scammed put my mind into gear and I knew I had to do something, that’s why I rang the bank, Action Fraud, the Financial Services, Trading Standards then eventually, Citizens Advice.”

Thankfully he was successful in getting his money back as he was able to prove he had been diligent in making checks prior to the investment. He’d kept copies of all the emails and paperwork sent by fraudsters from the cloned company, including bank details, as well as the advisor’s photograph and profile on LinkedIn.

His bank also informed him that they could’ve helped him more by offering information on potential scams and advising him of the risks when his first payment went through. He also believes that the pandemic has provided fraudsters with the ideal opportunity because of the limited face-to-face contact and increase in online interactions.

“At the height of the pandemic, people weren’t going out and seeing others and everything was being done online so it really has given fraudsters the scope to carry out these scams. Because of my experience, I’ll never do another transaction of that sort online” he explained.

The victim offered some advice to others who are concerned they may find themselves in the same situation as him.

He said: “If you’re going to deal with a company, make sure you get their Financial Services reference number or FRN. You can input this on the Financial Services website, and it will bring up the name of the company and it will give you all the details of their switchboard, their telephone numbers and other contact details. You have to be careful with emails and phone numbers because sometimes, they’re identical apart from one digit or one character and that makes such a big difference.”

Report it

If you think you’ve been targeted by an investment fraud, please report it to the FCA Scam Smart website. If you think you’ve fallen victim to an investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud as soon as possible, either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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I nearly lost 25K to fraudsters