A global network of scammers has been uncovered by police and
exposed by the BBC in a programme highlighting investment scams.
In this case, the network of fraudsters was so large that hundreds of different investment brands were used. One even sponsored a major football club in Spain, and advertised in newspapers, to appear more credible to investors. And it all seems to have been orchestrated by individuals known to the police as the Milton Group.
Typically, the scammers would place adverts on social media for investments, encouraging would-be investors to input their details and receive more information. A call would follow within a few days, promising high returns on investment and persuading the investor to sign up.
The call centres involved in this process trained their staff to identify and prey on the potential weaknesses of investors. People with larger savings pots were encouraged to make larger investments. Those of retirement age or who had been recently made redundant were targeted to invest their lump sum payouts.
The BBC were able to go with German and Georgian police when it was time to raid a call centre in Tbilisi and found the phone numbers of many British citizens who had been scammed.
Some of the people who lost money to the scammers were directed to unregulated, offshore funds. Others were signed up for high-risk investments with significant management charges and fees, meaning the investor would lose out, but the broker would still make money. Many were asked to download software onto their computers, giving the scammers remote access to their investment accounts.
Payments were requested from various individuals in the form of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, rather than cash. And some were even conned into thinking their money had been invested when, in fact, it had never been. These are all very common signs of investment fraud.
There are a number of red flags, including those highlighted above.
Other signs to look out for include:
- The firm is unregulated in the UK or registered overseas.
- Promises of high rates of return.
- No discussion about the level of risk involved.
- Poor explanation about the fees and charges you’ll pay.
- Pressure to act quickly, as an offer is time-limited.
- Endorsements from influencers and celebrities.
- Peer pressure from friends and family.
Remember that many people are initially attracted to an investment following a persuasive online advert. Take your time to research the company and the investment offered. Make sure the investment is suitable for your circumstances and needs. Get professional advice from an independent financial adviser, if necessary.
The Financial Conduct Authority Register is a free online resource that allows you to search for firms and individuals and the financial service activities they have permission to carry out. It includes addresses, phone numbers and website details of these firms, allowing you to double-check you are dealing with a legitimate business.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the UK’s official regulatory body responsible for overseeing 50,000 financial firms. They have the power to stop firms from carrying out regulated activities and to issue warnings and fines against firms that do not uphold the FCA’s rules. The FCA website publishes details of these breaches and also the outcome of criminal investigations.
Yes. Many investment scams occur because people believe they are sending money to a legitimate individual or company and therefore authorise their bank to make a payment. Usually, by the time a person realises they have been scammed, the money is gone – moved to another account held by the scammers and almost impossible to trace. A complaint to your bank may not go far – the bank holds you responsible for making the transfer in the first place – but what else can be done?
We have seen a number of important decisions from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) in cases of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud.
FOS is a government-backed scheme set up to help settle disputes between consumers and financial services businesses, such as banks.
FOS has ruled in some cases that banks didn’t do enough to protect their customers from fraud, often citing the fact that the banks have powers to delay or stop large or out-of-character bank transfers, to give them more time to establish that illegal activity, including money laundering or fraud, is not at play.
Our experienced APP fraud team has many years of experience in dealing with cases taken to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
We understand the time limits that need to be followed, the information FOS required in order to make its decision, and also the complex legal arguments and appeals processes that may arise.
We can assess your claim and decide whether to make an investment scam claim. We work on a ‘no win-no fee’ basis and will not charge you if your claim is unsuccessful. If you, a friend, a colleague or a family member have been the victim of an investment scam, a recovery scam or another type of APP scam, please get in touch for a confidential, no-obligation conversation with our team.
Call us on 0800 169 5925, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete one of the forms below.
It is essential to get advice as soon as possible as strict time limits can apply.
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.
- Always fight your corner.
- Explain anything you don't understand.
- Provide full transparency on our charges.
- Never ask for any upfront payment.
- Recover the best compensation we can.
- Keep your personal information safe.
- Respond quickly to any queries.