The Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”), the UK’s financial regulatory body, published a warning about risks of online investment fraud.
The FCA suggested investors be vigilant to scammers soliciting investments in binary options, contracts for difference (CFDs) and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
The FCA warned that retails investors are targeted by fraudsters via social media venues such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter, rather than by telephone, and are being lured to invest by promising high revenues and associating the opportunities to luxury items such as luxury cars and watches. Once someone invested, the prices distorted on their website, people are tied in with extreme pay-back requirements and sometimes customer accounts are closed arbitrarily as the fraudsters steal the funds.
The rise in these scams has affected the profile of the likely victims, too. Historically, the sector of people above 55s has been most at risk to investment fraud. Nevertheless, the FCA’s latest research has found that those aged under 25 were 13% more likely to trust an investment proposal they received via social media compared with 2% for the over 55s. Overall, around 20% of the respondents to the FCA’s research stated that online customer reviews and testimonies increased their trust in a company or opportunity.
The FCA has started a ScamSmart campaign that encourages individuals to check its dedicated website to estimate whether a company is authorized or to gather advice about whether an opportunity is likely to be fraudulent.
Binary options investments became a regulated investment on 3 January 2018, and the FCA has already published a list of 94 firms it believes are offering binary options trading to UK consumers without authorization.
The FCA’s main advice to consumers is:
Decline unsolicited investment offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone;
Check the FCA register before investing
check the FCA warning list of firms to avoid;
Obtain unbiased advice before investing.