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Chelsea Financial warns FCA of ‘clone firm’ scam

London-based Chelsea Financial Services has informed the FCA of a cloned firm which is cold-calling members of the public pretending to be the regulated advisory firm.

In a warning to its customers and potential investors, posted on Chelsea Financial Services’ website at the end of December, the firm warned that individuals claiming to be representatives of ‘Chelsea Financial’ are offering investment propositions and asking people to send them money.

Its warning said: “This is what is called a ‘clone firm’; and fraudsters usually use this tactic when contacting people out of the blue, so you should be especially wary if you have been cold-called. They may use the name of a genuine firm and other details.”

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On the clone firm Chelsea Financial’s fake website, http://chelseafinancial.org/, it is using the real Chelsea Financial Service’s address on their correspondence. It provides a London telephone number, 0203 514 5582, but despite numerous attempts to call on that number, it rings out.

The site itself is written in poor English, with poor grammar and use of capital letters. At one point it states: “Our Vision at Chelsea Financial Group is Within the next ten years evolve to be a leading provider of accounting, tax and financial planning services in the New England states (act locally) and international (think globally), well respected for technical expertise, quality, timely response, passion for service professionally, and adherence to highest ethical standards, by our clients and competitors. [sic]”

A spokesperson for the genuine Chelsea Financial Services plc said: “We know nothing of ‘Chelsea Financial’ and would like to urge our clients to be vigilant and, if you think you have been approached by these people, please report the incident immediately to the FCA.

“We ourselves have spoken to the FCA and asked it to investigate this as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesman for the FCA said it could not comment on individual cases but added: “Fraudsters look for new ways to scam consumers, but one increasingly reported to us involves share scammers pretending to be from firms we authorise.

“A new tactic has seen fraudsters using the name, firm registration number and address of firms and individuals authorised by us to suggest they are genuine. This is what we call a ‘cloned firm’.

“We take seriously all information we receive about unauthorised firms operating in the UK and targeting UK consumers. We use our criminal and civil powers to take action through the courts to stop those firms and individuals who pose the greatest harm to consumers and to legitimate firms.

“We also regularly publish consumer warnings about specific firms and investment scams, including clone firms, we are concerned about.”

In November statistics published by the regulator revealed that ‘clone firm’ reports rose during the latter stages of 2013. After starting the year at 22 in January, the number of reports rose to 33 in October, more than double that of September’s 15.