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Higher or Lower? Play Your Cards Right to Avoid Being Duped by a Binary Options Trading Scam

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According to a recent news report, a judge has jailed three people after the company they operated, Bespoke Markets Group, scammed £1.2 million from around 120 UK investors in an unauthorised Binary Trading hoax.

What is Binary Trading?

Binary Trading is a financial trading method with only two possible outcomes – either the trader predicts correctly and earns a fixed pay-out, or they predict incorrectly and lose their initial investment. You might compare it to the popular game show ‘Play your cards right’, where contestants were shown a playing card and had to ‘guess’ if the next card was going to be higher or lower – sometimes they got it right, sometimes they didn’t!

In binary options trading, for example, someone might believe the price of gold or a foreign currency will increase over a 24-hour period. They place a binary options trade with a broker, select a 24-hour expiration time and accept that, if they ‘win’, they will receive a fixed pay-out of 75% of their initial investment, plus the original investment amount. However, if they ‘lose’, all of their initial investment will be lost. Whilst the potential for high returns exists (often 70-90%), there is also a significant risk of total loss.

As with most financial investments, fraudsters are never very far away.

Binary Trading fraud can happen if:

  • A broker misrepresents the pay-out structure, in order to encourage traders to invest more money, by promising high returns or guaranteed profits. They may use false advertising, fake testimonials, fake celebrity endorsements or fake news articles.
  • A broker may interfere with the trading software so that it is impossible for a trader to make a profit.
  • A broker may refuse to release traders’ funds or charge additional fees to keep a higher proportion of their money.
  • The money you transferred from your bank account was never invested by the broker as promised. Sending money electronically through telephone banking or online banking is very common in fraud and scams. This is called Authorised Push Payment (APP) Fraud, as you authorise your bank to make the payment, believing the transaction to be genuine.

Binary Trading is a regulated financial activity and all Binary Trading brokers should be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) if they offer their services to UK residents. The FCA is the Government-backed regulatory body that oversees financial services companies, regulating and supervising their conduct, and ensuring they operate in a fair, transparent and appropriate manner.

Would-be traders should check that a broker has clear and transparent pricing, separate accounts for client funds, that they provide adequate risk warnings about binary trading, and that there is a complaints handling process in place.

It should be noted that, since 2018, binary options trading has been banned for ‘retail customers’, in other words, is only available to professional investors who are deemed to have the knowledge and experience to make informed investment decisions, given the volatile and complex nature of binary options.

Bespoke Markets Group was the company behind a recently reported Binary Trading scam. They were a London-based company that operated between 2016 and 2020, making cold calls to ordinary members of the public rather than professional investors, encouraging them to invest in their Binary Options scheme.

The company didn’t have FCA authorisation to carry out Binary Options Trading in the UK and should not have been targeting retail customers after 2018. Despite saying that they were investing their clients’ money in binary options, Bespoke Markets Group was in fact made up of fraudsters who shared the money between them via offshore bank accounts and used it to fund lavish lifestyles, with foreign travel, cosmetic dentistry, online gambling, property purchases and parties.

Bespoke Markets Group enticed investors with a promise that they would match investments with their own funds and that they would refund any losses within the first three to six months. They gave investors access to what appeared to be a legitimate trading platform showing trading activity but, as the money was never invested, the data was fake.

Three people involved with the company were jailed for a total of 24.5 years and another awaits sentencing.

Commenting on sentencing, Sarah Spruce, Head of the Fraud team at TLW Solicitors said:

“From this recently reported case it seems that investors were unaware that Bespoke Markets Group was not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to carry out Binary Options trading, a regulated financial service. The FCA has an updated register of authorised firms and individuals and recommends that you should always check it before dealing with anyone claiming to be involved in financial services.

The significant sentence handed down to the individuals involved with Bespoke Markets Group demonstrates how serious this type of crime is and, hopefully, will serve as a deterrent to other would-be scammers. The TLW Fraud Team and I understand the impact such crimes have on the victims and really feel for them.”

It is important to report any financial loss to your bank, the police and to Action Fraud. It may not be possible to recover your money from a Binary Options Broker, directly, for example if they have since gone out of business or moved your money to another account. An investigation by your bank may result in you receiving a refund, but this is not guaranteed, particularly if they are unable to trace and recover your money, or don’t accept any responsibility for your loss.

We have a team of legal specialists who are experienced in handling claims in fraud cases including Binary Options trading. Banks are increasingly being held to account for allowing Investment related Authorised Push Payment Scams to take place and there have been many reported cases where the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) ruled the banks did not take enough steps to protect their customers’ money from fraudsters.

FOS is the independent Government-backed organisation responsible for resolving disputes between financial institutions, such as banks, and their customers.

We understand the processes involved and the time limits to be followed when making a claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Our ‘no-win, no-fee’ approach means, if your case is unsuccessful, we will not charge for the time we have spent. Our robust case management systems mean we can progress your case and keep you fully up to date easily.

If you, a friend or a loved one have lost money in a Binary Options Trading Scam, or another investment related Authorised Push Payment Fraud, please get in touch.

You can call us on 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or complete one of the forms below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.

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.

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