A sharp increase in investment scams since the start of Covid-19 has left savers at least £4m out of pocket, the Investment Association has warned.
More than 300 incidents of scammers posing as investment managers have been reported to the IA in recent months, as crooks sought to use heightened volatility to lure investors into phony products or revealing valuable personal data.
The IA said: ‘Investment managers have reported serious organised criminals are impersonating their products, in particular investment bonds, promoting them through fake price comparison websites, and cloning their brands to produce fake documentation.’
The IA added that in some cases fraudsters have used names of genuine members of staff at investment firms in order to fool investors.
Many of the victims were only made aware they had been conned after contacting the real firms, having not received quarterly interest payments.
Chris Cummings, chief executive of the IA said: ‘During this time of great uncertainty, serious organised criminals have ratcheted up their operations and are increasingly ruthless in their mission to steal from investors.
‘Our industry is determined to counter this threat, and will continue to work closely with the police and regulators to bring an end to these scams.’
The disclosure followed a warning from the IA in April that criminals who have historically sought to swindle banking customers are increasingly setting their sites on retail investors.
The IA is now urging investors to be vigilant, particularly around the details of the contract offered to them, and to contact the National Crime Agency if they suspect fraudulent activity.
‘Contact from people claiming to be from investment firms should be verified with the genuine investment firm involved,’ it added. ‘In some instances, the bank accounts used are not in the names of the purported investment management firm and do not match the pre-sale literature.’
Steve Hyndman, director of financial crime risk at Aviva Investors and chair of the IA Financial Crime Committee, added: ‘Fraudsters will always try to take advantage of uncertainty. Fake comparison sites are a clever way to hook in savers, particularly during the uncertain times we are living through now.
‘As with all types of fraudulent activity, we would urge members of the public to remain as vigilant as they can.’
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