Nearly £10m ($13.3m) has been lost to sophisticated “cloning” investment scams since the UK lockdown began in March, new data has revealed.
More than 200 British retail investors were affected by the scam as fraudsters cloned genuine investment management companies’ products, websites and documentation, according to the Investment Association (IA).
The trade body added that scammers then promoted fake products on sham price comparison websites and adverts on social media and search engines.
Losses added up to £9.4m between March and mid-October, with the total number of reported incidents of scams nearly quadrupling from approximately 300 in July to 1175 in October.
The IA has urged investors to be as vigilant as possible to protect their investments. Anyone who suspects fraudulent activity should follow the advice of the National Crime Agency, it said.
Chris Cummings, chief executive of IA, said: “In a year clouded in uncertainty, organised criminals have sought opportunity in misfortune by attempting to con investors out of their hard-earned savings.
“The investment management industry is working closely with the police and regulators to stop these scams, and is collaborating with our partners in government to close them down and prevent them being advertised in the first place.”
He added: “Fraud and scams come in many different disguises. That’s why, as we approach the festive period, we urge savers and investors to be as vigilant as possible to protect their investments and think very carefully about the risks of fraud when making investment decisions.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Action Fraud warned that total reported losses from all types of investment fraud came to £657m between September 2019 and September 2020, a rise of 28% from a year prior.
The number of reports jumped between May and September after the UK’s first national lockdown, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre added.
The National Crime Agency has issued the following advice:
Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your investment manager immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud. Speak to your bank as soon as possible if you believe you have transferred money to a scam.
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