Beware the Covid scammers

Investment scams have nearly quadrupled during lockdown as scammers use evermore sophisticated methods to dupe ordinary savers into parting with their cash.

Almost £10m was lost in frauds last month, up from about £4m in July, according to the Investment Association. The total number of reported scams jumped from 300 to 1,175 over the same period.

Scammers are taking advantage of more people working from home where online security may be less robust than in their workplace. With Christmas shopping well underway and lockdown forcing more of us to buy online, there is a rich seam for the criminal to exploit.

Criminals are cloning genuine investment management companies using their logos and website designs to email potential victims, offering bogus opportunities that can be eye catching to those seeking a better return. They promote scam products using fake price comparison websites and adverts on social media and search engines such as google to advertise their products. Google insists it takes down bogus sites as soon as it spots them or is told they are there. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulator, has raised concerns that it cannot force web giants to take scam websites down and has called for greater powers to cause them to stop. The Government has said that the FCA has sufficient powers to tackle the problem already.

Mark TABER, a campaigner, has reported nearly 600 savings, ISA and bond scams which were using Google adds to target victims this year. ‘’ Most are fake comparison sights phishing for contact details, which are then used by convincing ‘’clone’’ scams selling fake savings and investment products including ISA’s and bonds.

‘’These figures and the number of victims identified are likely to be the tip of the iceberg as most who contact me are vulnerable and do not know how or where to report what has happened or are too ashamed to do so ‘’ said Mark.

The Investment Association and its members want new laws to tackle the problem. One option is to include online investment scams within the scope of the Online Harms Bill which is being passed through parliament. The bill’s primary aim is to tackle issues such as child abuse, terrorism and fake news.

Chris Cummings, head of the Investment Association said ‘’In a year of uncertainty, organised criminals have sought opportunity in misfortune’’.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, please speak in confidence to one of our lead investigators with no obligation.