Investment scams

Investment scams are evolving and are now more common than ever. Criminals use intense, high pressured sales techniques to convince you to invest in worthless or non-existent shares. 

Investment scam criminals will usually get in touch after you've shown interest in their fake firm on social media or through a google search, but they can also cold call people out of the blue. The criminal appears professional and may offer investments in commodities including cryptocurrencies, carbon credits, property, land, gold, or wine. The investment offer is supposed to provide the investor an excellent return in a short time frame.

Fraudsters are very clever and convincing. There are warning signs to look for that can help you to spot a possible investment fraud:

  • An unsolicited email, private message or cold call offering any form of investment. Cold calling to sell you shares or investments is illegal. 
  • 'Limited time only' offers that don't give you enough time to consider the investment. 
  • A pushy and persistent sales technique. 
  • Company names which sound familiar or have a slight variation to a legitimate company that is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority ('clone' companies).
  • A company that encourages keeping your investment secret to ensure maximum returns.

Be ScamSmart

The FCA has created ScamSmart, an online tool to help consumers identify if their investment is a scam or not. Answer 4 questions with drop downs for multiple choice and get a clear picture on the potential investment and the potential risks. 

ScamSmart aims to help you understand whether the company you're planning to invest with is regulated by the FCA and whether there's a potential it's a cloned/spoofed company. Remember, you must carry out your own due diligence checks on the company (like checking the telephone numbers you've been given match those registered to the company and you contact them directly using the genuine number to confirm the details). 

How to protect yourself from investment and cryptocurrency scams

  • Make the right checks – firms providing regulated financial services must be authorised by the FCA. You can check whether they are authorised on the FCA's register
  • Avoid clones (fake companies that look genuine) - use the contact details on the FCA Register, not the contact details you've found on an online advert, or that the firm gives you when they make contact.
  • Don't assume it's real – professional-looking websites, adverts or social media posts don't always mean that an investment opportunity is genuine. Criminals can use the names of well-known brands or individuals to make their scams appear legitimate. 
  • Stay in control – avoid uninvited investment offers whether made on social media or over the phone. If you're thinking about making an investment, thoroughly research the company first and consider getting independent advice. 
  • Never download software or apps that allow someone remote access to any of your devices, including your computer, laptop, tablet or phone. 
  • Don't allow anyone to set up a cryptocurrency wallet, upload ID documents or manage investments on your behalf remotely. 

Visit the FCA website to learn more about how to avoid investment scams and protect yourself. 

Cold-calling to sell shares or investments is illegal. Dealing with an investment criminal will almost certainly result in you losing your money. Remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it's probably a scam.