Warning to shareholders
Share fraud includes scams where investors are called out of the blue and offered shares that often turn out to be worthless or non-existent, or an inflated price for shares that they own. These calls often require you to make a quick decision and come from fraudsters operating in 'boiler rooms' that are mostly based abroad. High pressure sales tactics can also come by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar. Sometimes scams are also advertised in newspapers, magazines or online and appear as if they are genuine investment opportunities.
In addition, be aware of money recovery scams which can be initiated by someone claiming to be from the police or a government agency. Organisations names vary but can include the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and the US Securities & Exchange Commission. You should check the latest information on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website at www.fca.org.uk/consumers/scams/what-to-do-if-you-are-scammed for more details of scams pretending to be the police or a government agency.
While high profits are promised, those who buy or sell shares in this way usually lose their money. The FCA found that even experienced investors have been caught out by share fraud and on average, share fraud victims lose an average of £20,000, with around £200m lost in the UK each year.
If you are offered unsolicited investment advice, discounted shares, a premium price for shares you own, or free company or research reports, you should take these steps before handing over any money:
1. get the name of the person and organisation contacting you
2. check the Financial Services Register (FSR) at www.fca.org.uk/firms/systems-reporting/register/search to ensure they are authorised
3. use the details on the FSR to contact the firm
4. if you are based in the UK, call the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 if there is no telephone number on the FSR or you are told it is out of date
5. search the FCA's list of known unauthorised firms and individuals to avoid doing business with
6. beware of callers using an authorised firm or copying its website information
7. remember that law enforcement and other agencies will not contact members of the public asking for their bank details or money
8. remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
If you use an unauthorised firm to buy or sell shares or other investments, you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.
If you are approached about a share scam you should tell the FCA using the share fraud reporting form at www.fca.org.uk/consumers/scams, where you can find out about the latest investment scams. If you are based in the UK, you can also call the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.
If you have already paid money to share fraudsters you should contact Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or, if you are based in the UK, by telephone on 0300 123 2040.