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Celebrities can be the Victims of Online Scams Too

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Star of Britain's Got Talent, Francine Lewis and her family have been the victims of a scam by fake financial brokers.

Celebrity impressionist Francine Lewis is reported to have lost £90,000 having been conned into investing in Fomax Capital, a fake investment company masquerading as an international stock brokers. After extensive online research, the company was initially found by Francine’s husband who was looking at investment opportunities. Having gained the couple’s trust with initial ‘low-risk’ payments of £500, the amounts they thought they were investing soon escalated due to the persuasive scammers’ tactics.

Fomax Capital appeared to be a legitimate company with a registered address in London’s Canary Wharf, the scammers even offered to meet the couple at their offices. However, red flags started to emerge, including requests for payments to be made to personal accounts and emails and phone calls not being returned. By the time the couple realised what was happening, it was too late and the £90,000 had gone. The scam was subsequently covered on BBC’s Rip Off Britain.

Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques to deceive their victims into thinking they are their trusted advisers such as accountants, lawyers, financial advisers and stock brokers, as happened in this case. After building this trust, the scammers then persuade their victims to make payments to them, this is known as Authorised Push Payment (APP) Fraud. By the time the victims realise what is going on, it is often too late and the money has gone.

It is extremely important to report any fraud to the police as well as your bank as soon as possible. You can also report any suspected scamming activity to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre. If you have lost money, that may lead to a criminal investigation by the police. If a criminal prosecution is successful, the court can award compensation. But this is not always possible, particularly if the scammer is overseas or has no assets with which to pay compensation.

In addition, if you feel that your bank did not do enough to protect your money, you may have the basis of a formal complaint and in some cases entitled to a refund of some or all that has been lost.

If the bank rejects the complaint, then this can be escalated to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), a powerful Government backed watchdog that decides on disputes between financial institutions and their customers. FOS will examine the circumstances of the scam and also how the bank responded, given that banks will be more familiar with the many different types and sophistication of frauds than customers.

Head of professional negligence at TLW Solicitors, Sarah Spruce, said:

“This scam shows that anyone can be deceived by these online scammers. Through slick websites, marketing and sales techniques, combined with initial ‘low risk’ smaller investments, the scammers quickly build their victim’s trust. This in turn leads to higher and higher payments with promises of substantial returns on investments.

As recent FOS decisions have demonstrated, the banks are aware of the increasing sophistication of these scams and should have robust measures and processes in place to counter them and protect their customers, particularly if they are vulnerable, such as the elderly or financially naïve, and if there is evidence of unusual account activity involving large sums of money.

If you have been the victim of a scam and feel that your bank could have done more to protect the money in your account, then please get in touch with a member of our specialist team for a no-obligation initial discussion.”

The specialist team at TLW Solicitors has many years’ experience in successfully dealing with complaints to FOS, even where they have initially been rejected. We understand the time limits involved, the technical information needed and the claims and appeals processes.

If you, a friend or a loved one has been conned into making payments to online fraudsters, then please get in touch with our specialist team for a confidential, no-obligation discussion.

You can call us on 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or complete the enquiry form.

Time limits can apply and so anyone wishing to bring a claim should do so without delay.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.

“This scam shows that anyone can be deceived by these online scammers. Through slick websites, marketing and sales techniques, combined with initial ‘low risk’ smaller investments, the scammers quickly build their victim’s trust.”

Sarah Spruce