The Police are issuing a warning about investment fraud after a number of victims have lost money recently.
In May the force recorded six cases of investment fraud involving vulnerable victims, with total losses amounting to £365,150.
This crime typically involves a credible-sounding fraudster pretending to be from an investment company, offering victims opportunities to invest their money and potentially make impressive profits from doing so. The investment could be in shares or bonds, or precious goods such as gold, silver, diamonds, wine or art. Investment fraud can often happen over a long period of time.
In 2018 a woman in her 50s from Surrey Heath was looking to invest a redundancy payment. Through an internet search she found a company and she agreed to invest a lump sum in a bond. Since then she has continued to receive updates about her investment, with the company telling her most recently that they would soon be paying back the amount invested, alongside the interest earned. The money never appeared and with further research the woman realised she had been the victim of a scam. She had transferred £275,000.
People over 65 are frequent targets for investment fraudsters.
A couple in their 70s from Elmbridge were searching the internet for investments and a screen popped up asking for their details. Thinking it was legitimate, and their bank wanting to contact them about possible investment, they gave their details. They had transferred £70,000 before a further payment was blocked by their bank for being suspicious activity and the couple realised they had been victims of a crime.
PC Bernadette Lawrie, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Surrey Police said: “We are seeing victims lose devastating sums of money to fraudsters and are urging people to be wary when contacted by someone claiming to be from an investment firm about their money. This contact is frequently via telephone but can also start through social media and while searching for investments online.
“Take your time making decisions and remember that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.”
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) warned earlier this year that legitimate investment firm BlackRock Advisors UK Ltd was being ‘cloned’ by fraudsters. This new tactic means fraudsters use the name, firm registration number (FRN) and address of firms and individuals authorised by the FCA to suggest they are genuine. They can also copy a firm’s own website.
Bernadette Lawrie added: “If you are thinking of making an investment always check people are who they say they are. To make safe investments, take a look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart warning list.”
There is more information about Operation Signature, Surrey Police’s campaign to identify and protect vulnerable victims of fraud on the force’s website here. If you have been a victim of fraud please report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 101.