InvestmentsJun 12 2018

Scammers posing as legal and financial professionals

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Scammers posing as legal and financial professionals

More people are falling victim to scammers posing as professionals from financial and legal services, Citizens Advice has warned.

Such professional scams now account for a fifth of all scams reported to the charity’s consumer service helpline after seeing a 6 per cent upswing in reported cases this financial year.

The charity analysed 6,426 cases of scams from its Consumer Service helpline comparing available data from October 2016 to April 2017, to October 2017 to April 2018.

The median financial loss, the ‘middle’ value recorded for all scams over this period was £330.

Citizens Advice is urging anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam to report it to authorities, through Action Fraud and the Citizens Advice consumer service.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of the service, said: “Fraudsters are using new technology to peddle old tricks, posing as trustworthy professionals with persuasive offers.  

“Anyone can fall victim to these sophisticated scams, but all too often it’s the victim rather than the scammer who are left feeling sheepish. This isn’t right. 

“So, this year we want to break down the stigma around these serious crimes, which are targeted across all levels of society, yet remain under-reported.”

Citizens Advice is presenting alongside Trading Standards at events across the country in June as part of the government-backed campaign ‘scams awareness month’.

It said investment scams in particular were on the rise with the number of cases reported to Citizens Advice doubling this year compared to last.

These scams include cryptocurrency, binary option investments, and holiday timeshares.

In one case recorded by Citizens Advice a former finance professional fell for a sophisticated clone investment scam after investing £25,000 in a company she thought was legitimate. 

The scammer had set up a clone website in a regulated investment company’s name so it appeared legitimate. 

Consumer Minister and Conservative MP for Burton, Andrew Griffiths, said: “Scams like these can have devastating financial and personal costs to those affected. 

“Anyone can fall victim, young or old, which is why I am pleased to work with Citizens Advice to break the stigma and encourage people to speak up.”

He said the government has been cracking down on scams, with National Trading Standards stopping more than 8 million items of scam mail in the past year alone.

Martin Lewis, founder of, is currently suing Facebook in a campaigning lawsuit to stop scam ads, after the social media platform allowed more than 1,000 scam ads featuring his face to be published.

He said: “Scam ads have exploded across social media platforms over the last year. 

“Frankly we are getting close to the stage where you shouldn’t trust any advert on social media, or any automatically served advert. The policing and regulation of them is wholly inadequate. Things need to change.”

The government is in the process of banning pension cold calls, with underlying regulation expected to be in place by the end of this month.

But a further bill designed to ban nuisance calls more widely is to be heard in Parliament in July, following a successful 10 minute motion brought in April.

This calls for three measures to be introduced: making penalties more robust to widen the way they can be applied; making directors of companies personally liable for fines for nuisance calls; and tightening up on the definition of a nuisance call. 

Claire Walsh, chartered financial planner at Aspect8, said more needed to be done to crack down on those found to have scammed people.

She said: "It's very hard for people to know what to look for, what good looks like [when searching for a financial professional], because we've got all these qualifications and various trade bodies, which confuses consumers. So it's very easy for somebody to pose as a financial professional.

"I find consumers often go by trust but of course scammers can tell them anything.

"It needs tougher legislation and more punitive sentencing when people are caught and the regulator needs to do more to target the unregulated."

Investment scams on the rise:

Cryptocurrency - Fake websites claim to offer cryptocurrency investments, like Bitcoin. Often, scammers will pretend household names have endorsed the company to give it some legitimacy.

Binary options - Scammers pose as stockbrokers to get people to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date. They will promise big returns. 

Bogus solicitors - A scammer will intercept emails from a legitimate solicitor and pose as them. Scammers often strike when a property is being exchanged on and get the funds diverted to their bank account instead.

Holiday timeshares - Scammers promise to buy a person's membership off them for an advanced fee.