Fraudsters have taken advantage of coronavirus lockdown to steal £10 million from Hampshire residents.
Now Hampshire Police are informing the public of how to protect themselves from investment fraud.
Between September 2019 and September 2020, Action Fraud received just over 17,000 reports of investment fraud, amounting to £657.4m in reported losses. However, reports spiked in May, June, July, August and September – covering a large proportion of the first phase of the UK national restrictions – and is likely to due to the nation adjusting to life after the easing of restrictions.
During this same time period, Hampshire residents reported 396 incidents of investment fraud – a 5% increase (377 reports) on the previous reporting year (Sept ’18 – Sept ’19).
Similarly to the national picture, reported cases spiked across Hampshire in the Summer months of June, July and August likely caused by more people spending time indoors due to the global pandemic. This culminated in losses of approximately £10.3m to local residents – 24% increase on the previous reporting period (£8.3m from ’18 Sept – ’19 Sept).
Nearly a fifth (18%) of victims were aged between 70 and 79, while those aged 60-69 were the second most likely to be targeted by fraudsters. Data also suggests that the majority of victims were men, who made up almost two-thirds (60%) of reports during this time.
Detective Inspector Sue Orr, Economic Crime Unit at Hampshire Constabulary, said: “Now that England is facing another lockdown, we’d like to remind Hampshire residents that if you’re contacted out of the blue by someone not known to you, pertaining to provide you with an ‘excellent’ and ‘very profit-driven’ investment, to be cautious.
“We would implore you to think twice before handing over bank account details or sensitive information and consider whether this opportunity is too good to be true – and if it seems so, decline the opportunity.
“To keep yourself, and others, safe take a look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart warning list if you’re considering making an investment. Please always report suspicious investment opportunities to Action Fraud.”
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “The coronavirus outbreak sadly led to many people losing their job or having to manage with a lower income than they were used to. It has also caused a shakeup in the economy in general, with interest rates falling, in a similar way to the financial crisis of 2008. All of these factors provide criminals with the opportunity to attract more people with their fraudulent investment schemes.
“Preying on people when they are at their most vulnerable really shows how low these criminals will stoop to make a profit for themselves. That is why we are working hard with our law enforcement colleagues, and partners in the finance industry, to tackle investment fraud and empower the public to spot a scam.”
How to protect yourself from investment fraud:
• Be suspicious if you are contacted out the blue about an investment opportunity. This could be via a cold-call, an e-mail or an approach on social media.
• Don’t be rushed into making an investment. No legitimate organisation will pressure you into making a transaction, or committing to something on the spot. Take time to do your research.
• Seek advice from trusted friends, family members or independent professional advice services before making a significant financial decision. Even genuine investment schemes can be high risk.
• Use a financial advisor accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority. Paying for professional advice may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it will help prevent you from being scammed.
• Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s register to check if a company is regulated. If you deal with a firm or individual that isn’t regulated, you may not be able to get your money back if something goes wrong and its more likely to be a scam.
• Just because a company has a glossy website and glowing reviews from ‘high net worth’ investors does not mean it is genuine – fraudsters will go to great lengths to convince you they are not a scam.
• Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you’ve been a victim of investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. For more information about investment fraud, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.