The number of Britons falling victim to investment scams has doubled over the past year amid a rising wave of cryptocurrency, binary option investments and holiday timeshares scams, new figures show.
Charity Citizens Advice said it had to deal with 235 cases involving investment fraud in the 2017-18 financial year, double the number seen in the previous twelve months.
Investment scams, together with scams relating to legal services – such as people tricked by bogus solicitors during the sale of a property – totalled 1,200 and saw victims lose an average of £330.
On the rise: The recent ‘crypto-craze’ has seen the flourishing of phoney firms claiming household names back their projects
Such cons have risen by 6 per cent over the past year and now account for a fifth of all scams reported to Citizens Advice’s Consumer Service, said the charity which dealt with a total 6,426 scams this year.
It comes as the recent ‘crypto-craze’ has seen the flourishing of phoney firms claiming household names back their projects.
Amstrad founder Alan Sugar, presenter of TV show The Apprentice, has become the latest high-profile figure to speak out about his name being used to sell scam crypto-currency deals recently.
He joins an ever-growing list of famous people who have had their names appropriated by crypto con-artists. They include Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Deborah Meaden from the Dragons’ Den TV series and MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis.
While the average loss was £330 this year, some people have parted with much larger sums.
Citizens Advice tells of a working mother who turned to the charity after realising her cryptocurrency investment was a scam.
She initially invested £500 in what she thought was Bitcoin and, after receiving daily calls about her growing investment, she continued to invest to a total of £40,000.
Another case is that of a financial professional who invested £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.
Scams which are on the rise also involve fraudsters posing as stockbrokers who ask potential investors to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date, and criminals who promise to buy back timeshare memberships for an advanced fee.
More people have lost money to bogus solicitors, who often strike during a property exchange
More people have also lost money to bogus solicitors, who often strike during a property exchange and asking for the funds to be diverted to their bank account instead, the charity said.
The charity is urging victims to ‘speak up’ to break the stigma of what it believes is an under-reported crime.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy 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 is 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.’
Consumer minister 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.’