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Scammers posing as legal and financial professionals

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 MoneySavingExpert.com, 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.

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