What does an investment scam look like?

24 March 2023

5 min read

Lots of us are looking to be smarter with any spare money we have. Criminals are experts at making their bogus investment schemes look legitimate. They create convincing adverts, websites and leaflets for them. And they make it look as though celebrities endorse them.

Below are Ana and Simon’s experiences as victims of investment scams. These are real stories – we’ve just changed a few details and names to protect the identities of those involved.

Ana’s investment story

Ana had recently received some compensation money, and she wanted to invest some of it. She searched for investments online, and found an advert about investing in a wind farm, which promised to help reduce your energy bills if you invest.

Ana sent a request to be contacted, so she could learn more. Someone claiming to be a trader emailed her, and sent documents and glossy brochures, which looked genuine. There was a lot of detail about the investment.

Ana ran a quick online search for the company, and then decided she wanted to invest. The trader asked for copies of her passport, driving licence and utilities bill, to make themselves seem more authentic. They then offered to help Ana open a trading account as she had never invested before.

Ana started sending small payments at first. Then she transferred larger payments, following advice from the trader. She invested a total of £15,000.

Ana was excited by how well her investment was doing whenever she looked in the fake trading account. But eventually, she decided to withdraw her investment. When she contacted the trader to ask how to do this, she stopped receiving messages from him.

We investigated Ana’s situation and found that the company she was investing in was a clone of a genuine organisation. Not only had she lost a lot of money, but she’d also provided the criminal with valuable personal documents that could be used to commit identity fraud.

Simon’s cryptocurrency story

Simon had heard from colleagues how easy it is to make money by investing in cryptocurrency. He saw an advert for a crypto investment while browsing social media. It included pictures of Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, endorsing the investment as safe. Simon trusts Martin’s opinion, so he believed the crypto scheme was genuine.

Simon wanted to find out more and completed a form online. He was quickly contacted by someone claiming to be a trader. They said he’d need to set up a trading account, and they offered to help manage it for him.

The trader convinced Simon to download some software, which was actually a remote access tool. This allowed the trader to control Simon’s computer remotely.

Simon made a first payment of £500. He stayed in contact with the trader for a month, and the trader used the software to show him fake information about how the investment was growing. Simon then made another payment of £5,000. The trader continued to show fake information about its performance.

Some time later, Simon asked to withdraw his investment. The trader said Simon would need to pay a £250 administration fee, which he did. The trader then stopped replying to Simon’s messages.

Simon became suspicious and contacted his bank, and they investigated further. They discovered that the bogus investment company was listed on the Financial Conduct Authority’s warning list, and that he had been the victim of a scam.

How can I protect myself?

To stay safe when considering an investment opportunity, make sure you:

  • Check who you’re speaking to is genuine
  • Get independent financial advice
  • Do your research carefully.

Find out more about how to protect yourself from investment scams.


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