Articles

A cautionary tale

Investment scams can be very convincing. In October last year, we were alerted to a scam impersonating us.

It’s important to make sure you’re dealing with a genuine firm

Peter* was on the lookout for a good investment and came across a bond called the ‘TransferWise Investment Bond’ advertised online. It looked like a good opportunity. It appeared to be provided by us, Liverpool Victoria Financial Services Limited, and overseen by one of our LV= Client Advisers. Peter filled in the contact form and promptly received an email from an alleged LV= representative. The email included a ‘Product Fact Sheet’ attachment. The email address included ‘liverpoolvictoria’ and both the email and document featured our LV= logo. Peter wanted to double check everything before he went any further with this investment, so he got in touch with us directly via the contact details on our website. This is when he found out that this was not a genuine investment opportunity at all. He had very nearly fallen for a scam.

Impersonation

Scammers often pretend to be legitimate firms and businesses which is called ‘impersonation’ or ‘clone firms’. This is to try and manipulate people into thinking they are dealing with a known and trusted brand. In the case above, our old LV= logos had been copied from the internet and pasted into emails and documents to make it look convincing. When considering an investment, always check the FCA register of regulated companies. It’s important to make sure you’re dealing with a genuine firm, and even if the firm is listed, call the company back on the details listed on the register so you can check it’s a genuine offer.

Signs of an email scam

The fraudsters who tried to scam Peter used an email that appeared to be genuine as it included ‘liverpoolvictoria’ in the address. Scammers often use email addresses that look like they’re from the company they’re impersonating. Another common trick is for them to use a fake ‘From’ name to make it look like the email has come from someone trustworthy. If you click to see further details there will likely be a very different email address behind it.

For more advice, read the Which? guide on how to spot an email scam

Fighting the scammers

Luckily Peter realised this was a scam before he parted with any cash. Unfortunately a number of other people targeted by this scam had progressed and attempted to make a payment. Investments were encouraged from a minimum of £20k to a maximum of £240k, with payments requested in amounts no larger than £85k at a time so they were allegedly covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Fortunately, when these payment requests were made the banks started to raise some questions. In several cases the banks were unable to validate the destination account, which triggered some doubts. Following further enquiries, these customers were informed they were victims of a scam.

We were contacted by several concerned members of the public about this scam. Our Financial Crime Investigations Team provided support and guidance to each person who got in touch. In these cases we were able to confirm this was a scam and prevent any money changing hands. Unfortunately there may have been many more affected by this particular scam that we didn’t get a chance to speak to.

Our Financial Crime Investigations Team reported the scam to ActionFraud and worked with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to get the scammers web pages taken down.

Protecting yourself

Sadly, as quickly as these pages are taken down, new ones pop up. So to avoid becoming the victim of financial crime, learn to spot the signs of scam. Red flags for investment scams include:

  • False authority – convincing literature and websites, claiming to be regulated
  • Unexpected contact – cold calls, letters or emails out of the blue
  • Offers of unrealistic returns – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is
  • Time pressure – pressure to invest by a set date is a cause for concern

Read more about spotting the signs of investment and pension fraud 

If you are worried that you have been a victim of this scam, please get touch with our Financial Crime Investigations Team straight away [email protected]

For further advice on investment scams, these resources may be useful:

*Not the customer’s real name.