Fraud officers are warning the public about ‘get rich quick’ investment scams after Nottinghamshire victims lost huge sums.
In recent months, Nottinghamshire Police has received dozens of reports of people falling victim to advance fee fraud.
This is where scammers promise an individual something valuable in return for paying a specified amount of money upfront.
When the target pays, there may be a series of further fees demanded or the fraudster will simply disappear – leaving the victim thousands of pounds out of pocket.
New data reveals 41 cases were reported to Nottinghamshire Police in July – significantly higher than May and June, when 30 and 28 cases were reported respectively.
In one case, a woman in her 60s was conned out of £24,000 in an online cryptocurrency scam. The victim told officers she clicked on an advert for a bitcoin investment scheme that appeared to be promoted by financial journalist and broadcaster Martin Lewis.
After entering her details, she was immediately called by someone who said she would be put in touch with a financial advisor who would do the work for her. She was told there would be a £250 fee for the advisor’s work, which she paid.
She then invested various sums of money and downloaded an app to see how much profit she was making. But in reality, her balance was empty and she had merely been looking at the rates for various cryptocurrencies.
In another fraud, an elderly couple paid £56,000 over a period of seven months, also believing they were investing in bitcoins. But again, it was a scam – which the couple said they’d fallen for because the person on the end of the phone had been “very polite and persuasive”.
In a third case, a vulnerable female was almost defrauded out of £70,000 in similar circumstances. Thankfully, this was stopped by her bank after it correctly invoked a banking protocol.
Detective Sergeant Tara Clapperton, of Nottinghamshire Police’s fraud team, urged people to think extremely carefully before investing in schemes advertised online.
She said: “Investment fraud is prevalent across the UK and is sadly destroying many lives.
“With the cost-of-living crisis still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there is the potential that more people will fall victim to this devastating type of fraud as they try to find a way to get quick financial returns to help pay the bills.
“While criminals are now using social media to target people with fake investment opportunities, the ‘typical’ cold calling tactics also haven’t gone away, so we must not be complacent and remain alert to these types of approach.
“If you’re contacted by anyone not known to you and unexpectedly asking you to invest or to send them money, you should treat it with caution. Don’t be pushed or rushed into anything you are not sure of and remember, if it is too good to be true, then it probably is!
“Always be on your guard and take time to do your research thoroughly before deciding to invest any amount of money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Follow the Take Five to Stop Fraud advice as it will help protect you and your money.”
How to spot the signs and protect yourself:
- Before deciding to invest, always do your research and do not let anyone rush you. Only criminals will put pressure on you to make a quick decision. Stop, take time to think and consult trusted friends and family members before parting with your money
- Be cautious if you are asked to change money into cryptocurrency to invest or make a payment via cryptocurrency. This is often a tactic used by fraudsters
- Be aware that some investment opportunity approaches can come via social media. Always undertake additional research to check the validity of such an opportunity
- Fraudsters have been known to hack social media accounts to promote bogus investments. If you are making an investment based on a recommendation from a friend or family member sent via social media, check that this has been sent by them
- Scammers will often create professional looking websites and utilise fake business premise locations to give an impression of legitimacy
- Never let anyone take control of your phone or computer for any reason. A reputable business would never do this
- Check on the FCA website to see if an investment business is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
People are urged to follow the Take Five to Stop Fraud 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 bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, which is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, online by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling on 0300 123 2040.
It’s also important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.