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Taking the fight to online Investment Scams

Friday, August 14th, 2020

In a news story published today, the National Cyber Security Centre stated that over the past 4 months, it had removed over 300,000 URLs linking to investment scams with fake celebrity endorsements.

We can help in this work. If you receive or see such a case, please contact report@phishing.gov.uk. If you receive an obvious case via e-mail, it should be as simple as forwarding it to this address. As with many other forms of criminality, your report may help beyond the specific instance, as many are linked to organised crime.

Those who do fall victim to online fraud should contact their bank immediately and report it as a crime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland). If you are based in Scotland, you can report to Police Scotland by calling 101.

Case study – Cryptocurrency trading firm falsely claiming Martin Lewis endorsement

Anyone who has watched Martin Lewis talk on the subject, will know his passion and outrage at being falsely connected to products or services.

Just one example featured a scam online cryptocurrency trading company. GPay Ltd, which traded as XtraderFX and formerly as Cryptopoint, targeted people in the UK and abroad, advertising its services online and via social media channels. Customers were encouraged to use its trading platform through advertisements that falsely claimed the service was supported or endorsed by Martin and other entrepreneurs.

Fake ‘Martin Lewis’ scam ads firm shut down in court – but victims lost £1.5m

The firm was wound up on 23 June 2020. Following complaints, investigators found that at least 108 people claimed they had lost just under £1.5 million in total while using the company’s online trading platform. In some cases, the firm’s customers lost money despite paying insurance which was meant to retrospectively cover their losses.

Case study – Investment scams on Instagram

Another recent case, published by Action Fraud, involves losses on investment scams reported by Instagram users.

164 Instagram users report losing over £350,000 to investment scams

In these cases, fraudsters approach victims via Instagram’s instant messaging feature of the platform, or are approached after advertising their service. An initial investment of a few hundred pounds is to be traded on the stock market or to buy and trade foreign currency until they have multiplied the investment several times within a matter of days. Proceeds would be paid to the victim after deduction of a small commission. Victims are usually requested to send the money by bank transfer or through a cryptocurrency platform which means it is nearly impossible to retrieve.

In reality, once the initial investment has been transferred the victim is given a series of excuses as to why their money and ‘profits’ cannot be returned unless more money is sent. Eventually all contact is severed and the victim is blocked by the suspect.

Read in the cold light of day, this is a case of obviously ‘too good to be true’. It targets a younger demographic, typically aged between 20 and 30, with less savings or those who are financially vulnerable and are searching for a quick and easy way to make money.

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