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A warning has been issued today by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) together with Action Fraud regarding the rising number of crypto assets and forex investment scams. Reports of this kind of criminal activity tripled last year to over 1,800 recorded instances, with more than £27m lost to scams of this nature in 2018/19. However, in an alarming new trend, fraudsters are using bogus celebrity endorsements in order to dupe unwary investors into parting with their cash.
Social media platforms are being increasingly used to promote ‘too good to be true’ online trading platforms, accompanied by images of high-cost, luxury items, such as expensive watches and cars. Once an innocent investor has been enticed into clicking on a web link, they will be taken to a professional-looking website where they will be encouraged to invest. At first, the customer is assured by the fact that the first investment has made a profit, before the scammers then approach the victim to invest yet more funds as well as introducing friends and family to the bogus scheme. Eventually, however the returns stop, the account is closed without warning and the criminals disappear with the victim’s money. It has been estimated that the average loss due to this kind of fraud is around £14,600 per victim.
The introduction of fake celebrity endorsements is a relatively new development that has added an additional lure for the unwary on social media platforms. This is a ploy designed with the sole intention of lending credibility to the scammer’s offers.
Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, said: “People need to be wary of fake investments on online trading platforms. It’s vital that people carry out the necessary checks to ensure that an investment they’re considering is legitimate.
“Action Fraud is pleased to be partnering with the FCA to raise awareness of online trading scams, and we hope it will help prevent more people falling victim. Remember, if you think you have been a victim, contact Action Fraud.”
This advice was echoed by Mark Stewart, executive director of Enforcement and Market Oversight for the FCA: “'We’re warning the public to be suspicious of adverts that promise high returns from online trading platforms.
“Scammers can be very convincing, so always do your own research into any firm you are considering investing with to make sure that they are the real deal. Before investing online, find out how to protect yourself from scams by visiting the ScamSmart website, and if in any doubt – don’t invest.”
The FCA has also produced a simple series of rules for would-be investors encouraging people to stay safe while scrolling:
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