Alarm bells sounded after 1,000 FCA scam warnings

Alarm bells sounded after 1,000 FCA scam warnings

Alarm bells have been sounded as the number of scam warnings issued by the Financial Conduct Authority have surpassed 1,000 this year.  

The number of warnings, which are published on the regulator's website, peaked in the final week of September when the City watchdog listed 43 scams, clones and unauthorised firms in just seven days. 

According to data collated by consultancy the Lang Cat, the FCA has issued 1003 warnings in the 43 weeks to the end of October. 

It comes amid increasing concern over the prevalence of scams and fraudulent activity as criminals seek to take advantage of the financial and social confusion created by the coronavirus crisis. 

Mike Barrett, consulting director at the Lang Cat, warned relying on the regulators alone was not enough in the battle against scams.

He said: "I think this is the most important issue facing our sector, and everyone, advisers, providers, the media, need to play their part to solve it.

"With over 1000 warnings year to date it’s clear that the problem is out of control, and the FCA simply can’t cope with the scale, not least since many of these warnings are directed against firms who sit outside their regulatory perimeter.

"Somehow we’ve got to address this issue, especially as more and more people are likely to become financially vulnerable over the coming months."

A Freedom of Information request published in the summer revealed the number of clone firm warnings issued by the FCA had jumped 110 per cent in the past five years.

The watchdog regularly posts warnings about scam and clone companies on its website, some of which have attempted to impersonate advice firms and other household names by using a slight variant of company details.

Pension scams and the regulatory environment in which they have been allowed to thrive are a key focus for the Work and Pensions Committee, chairman Stephen Timms told FTAdviser last month.

He warned the committee will "no doubt" have something to say about the Financial Conduct Authority and The Pensions Regulator's actions (or lack of them) when it comes to preventing scams.

Myron Jobson, personal finance campaigner at Interactive Investor, said: "Financial scams are simply ghastly, but they are worryingly becoming more commonplace - especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Scammers are shrouding their nefarious schemes among the increase in correspondence by legitimate organisations relating to coronavirus measures."

A recent survey of 12,000 UK adults by Interactive Investor found 13 per cent of respondents admitted to having been scammed, rising to 18 per cent in the 72-77 age category and 20 per cent among those aged over 77.

Mr Jobson said: "It is almost impossible to stop unscrupulous individuals from scamming, so raising awareness of the different type of scams and common approaches is key.

"To be fair to the regulator, it has tried to do exactly this through its ScamSmart campaign.

"It shouldn’t rest solely on the FCA alone to raise awareness - the financial industry as a whole has a role to identify, report and expose new scams and to prevent consumers from falling victim to them.