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Hampshire residents scammed out of £16m by investment fraudsters

Fraudsters set up ‘clone firms’ and use advertising on social media and internet search engines.
Fraudsters set up ‘clone firms’ and use advertising on social media and internet search engines.

THE pandemic has heightened the risk of fraud with millions of pounds stolen in Hampshire by scammers posing as genuine investment firms.

The county’s force is working with Action Fraud, the City of London Police and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to crack down on the scams.

Action Fraud data shows Hampshire residents lost more than £16.1m throughout 2020 to the offence – equating to average losses of £31,944 each.

Residents aged 70-79 were most likely to fall victim (19%), closely followed by those aged 50-59 (16%), with 61% of victims being men.

It is believed the ongoing financial impact of coronavirus may be making people more susceptible to these scams.

Fraudsters set up ‘clone firms’ using the name, address and firm reference number (FRN) of real FCA-authorised companies and engage with victims through methods such as advertising on social media and internet search engines.

The adverts lead to exact replicas of genuine websites and, once interest has been registered, they get in touch often using genuine firm employees’ names and subtly amended email addresses.

Victims who transfer savings often do not realise they have been scammed until months later, when they fail to receive quarterly returns or investment reports.

People are urged to double-check all firm details on the FCA register, not just the FRN, and only use the phone number listed on the register.

Investors should reject unsolicited offers and even be wary if they have initiated contact themselves.

Det. Sgt Marcus Mills, of Hampshire’s economic crime unit, said: “Hampshire, like many other areas, seemingly saw a spike in activity during the summer months last year and this has continued, albeit rates have slightly dropped in recent months.

“It’s important to remind local residents of that age old saying that if something is too good to be true, it likely is.”

Report investment scams to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Suspicious websites can be reported by emailing report@phishing.gov.uk and suspicious text messages forwarded to 7726.

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