SFO - Serious Fraud Office

Mass Market Fraud

Mass Market Fraud is a type of fraud which aims to make victims part with their money by promising cash, prizes, services and high returns on investment. Examples include foreign lotteries, 'boiler room' frauds, correspondence scams where fraudsters purport to act on behalf of bona fide charities and institutions and ask you to provide money and personal information. The majority of these frauds are committed from overseas by way of email, telephone or letter to the victim in the United Kingdom.

Everyone is vulnerable to these types of fraud.  Fraudsters will go to great lengths and costs to get their hands on your hard earned cash.  This proves how lucrative fraud can be and how many people are caught out.

Here are some classic frauds and what you can do to avoid being caught out.  

'Congratulations! You've won the X Lottery!'

The truth is ……You never entered this lottery.  The names, faces and testimonies of previous winners are included in the letter to convince you to part with your personal details and cash.

What you should do ….. Throw away the letter.  Don't contact the sender. Never provide any details electronically, for example, your date of birth, bank account numbers, and so on. 

A 'cold caller' rings you at home asking you to invest in shares

The truth is …… These fraudsters are trained to use high pressure sales tactics to persuade people to part with their money by buying worthless shares. They promise all sorts of things: high returns, rapid returns (for example,  "this company is going to list on a stock market and the share value will rapidly increase but you can buy now and be one of the lucky few"). These frauds are known as 'Boiler Room Frauds'.  They often operate from overseas despite the call you receive appearing to be local. This is to make it hard for you to get your money back.

What you should do is ……. Hang up the phone. Don't succumb to the pressure. Be firm and tell them that you are not interested.  Ask yourself this question - if the opportunity was so good why would a company you have never shown any interest in be contacting you out of the blue? 

Remember …. any 'opportunities' to invest in overseas companies carry risk, they are not regulated by the Financial Services Authority and you could lose out.       

Investing in property either off plan or by a brochure 

The Truth is ….. You will not be buying what you are led to believe, if anything at all.  Any promise of rental income will be highly exaggerated.  There will be many hidden 'legal' costs and extras which will hold up progress for years. 

What you should do is ….. Never buy a property by its (brochure) cover. Always see/inspect before you buy.  Any reputable building firm would expect you to want to do this and should encourage it.   If your vendor 'tells' you how much you will make in rent, always seek independent advice from a local lettings agent before you commit to buying and confirm what the real rental rate is.     

How to protect yourself from being approached by these fraudsters

Your personal data is very valuable to fraudsters; it makes you accessible to them and tells them what type of fraud to target at you.  For example, if they know you have recently retired, they will assume that you are likely to have a lump sum of money that they will be anxious to relieve you of.  Fraudsters are totally unscrupulous, they target people who have been recently bereaved or who have been made redundant.

If you are approached by anyone selling you anything and you realise they are calling from abroad or the company they represent is registered outside the UK - please remember that if anything happens to your money, you could lose out as the individuals or companies will not be regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

What you should do ……

Be careful about the amount of personal information you post online.  Fraudsters employ people to trawl social networking sites to gather (farm) data and slowly build up a picture about you.

Always remember this when you are online.

If someone calls you asking for personal details, don't give them, no matter how plausible the caller may seem.  These days any reputable company would expect you to protect your own data and should not be asking for it. 

Always shred letters and documents that hold information about you, no matter how insignificant.   

We cannot stress enough that if you respond to a fraudster's first approach, your life will be plagued with emails, telephone calls and post (sometimes letters are issued by the hundred).  This is because you will appear on a list which circulates among fraudsters as someone who has parted with money before.

Ultimately - the real truth is that …… if it sounds too good to be true, then it most certainly is.