The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a warning to the public over ‘clone firm’ investment scams.
Clone firms are fake firms set up by scammers using the name, address and ‘Firm Reference Number’ (FRN) of real companies authorised by the FCA, which then send sales materials linking to websites of legitimate firms to dupe potential investors.
When the UK first went into lockdown last year, reports of ‘clone firm’ investment scams increased by 29% in April 2020 compared to March.
Action Fraud also reveals consumers reported losses of more than £78m between January and December 2020.
In the final month of 2020, consumers reported average losses of £45,242 each on average when investing with fraudsters imitating genuine investment firms.
Mark Steward, executive director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said: “Clone investment scams can look real and sophisticated but anyone can spot them by following our advice.
“If you’re considering an investment, visit the FCA Register to make sure the firm you’re dealing with is authorised.”
He added: “Check our Warning List of firms you should avoid, use the contact details on our FCA Register, not the details the firm gives you, and check for subtle differences to avoid ‘clone firm’ scams.
“And if you’re still unsure, call our consumer helpline for further information. When it comes to clones, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to double check every detail.”