Action Fraud is informing the public of how to protect themselves from investment fraud, after reports spiked following the first national lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Between September 2019 and September 2020, Action Fraud received just over 17,000 reports of investment fraud, amounting to £657.4m in reported losses. This is a 28% increase when compared to the same period last year. Furthermore, reports spiked in May, June, July, August and September 2020 as the nation adjusted to life after lockdown.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“The coronavirus outbreak sadly led to many people losing their job or having to manage with a lower income than they were used to. It has also caused a shake up in the economy in general, with interest rates falling, in a similar way to the financial crisis of 2008. All of these factors provide criminals with the opportunity to attract more people with their fraudulent investment schemes.
“Preying on people when they are at their most vulnerable really shows how low these criminals will stoop to make a profit for themselves. That is why we are working hard with our law enforcement colleagues, and partners in the finance industry, to tackle investment fraud and empower the public to spot a scam.”
How to protect yourself from investment fraud
- Be suspicious if you are contacted out the blue about an investment opportunity. This could be via a cold-call, an e-mail or an approach on social media.
- Don’t be rushed into making an investment. No legitimate organisation will pressure you into making a transaction, or committing to something on the spot. Take time to do your research.
- Seek advice from trusted friends, family members or independent professional advice services before making a significant financial decision. Even genuine investment schemes can be high risk.
- Use a financial advisor accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority. Paying for professional advice may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it will help prevent you from being scammed.
- Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s register to check if a company is regulated. If you deal with a firm or individual that isn’t regulated, you may not be able to get your money back if something goes wrong and its more likely to be a scam.
- Just because a company has a glossy website and glowing reviews from ‘high net worth’ investors does not mean it is genuine – fraudsters will go to great lengths to convince you they are not a scam.
- Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you’ve been a victim of an investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. For more information about investment fraud, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.