Seven fraudsters have been sentenced after Action Fraud and Surrey Police launch investigation, following a number of reports made by victims. Action Fraud was able to link the reports made to the watchdog by victims and send them to Surrey Police, who opened an investigation. The seven scammers, stole more than £800,000 and targeted elderly and vulnerable people, who were cold called and pressured into handing over their savings to a scheme known as ‘Rare earth elements’ which the group claimed was an investment opportunity.

Detective Inspector Matthew Durkin from Surrey Police spoke to Action Fraud and Said: “ This was a complex case to investigate due to the large number of defendants changing relationships during the time that the fraud took place. I am proud of the result we got today and that is a testament to the hard work of my officers. I want to particularly pay tribute to the bank manager who started this investigation by giving us a call when he was uncomfortable with an investment a client was trying to make. Without his quick thinking, who knows how much further they would have got.

“This company tried to appear professional and legitimate to the outside world – but all they were is professional criminals: thieves in suits. They were professional in their approach to defrauding their victims. They cold-called them, but took their time over making the investment seem legitimate, grooming the victims into believing that they had done their homework and this was a good investment. These victims were not stupid and they were not greedy. The criminals worked very hard to persuade them, some of whom were previously successful business people or academics, that this was a good investment opportunity. Once the investor had transferred some funds, the group were ruthless in exploiting those that had fallen for their lies, persuading them to invest repeatedly by encouraging them to ‘increase’ or ‘diversify’ the portfolio and make it more attractive to buyers.

“These people have broken their victims lives, they took life savings, left investors destitute and ruined their confidence and independence. My message to anyone receiving a cold call about an investment opportunity is to hang up. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If you are tempted to make investments, then seek professional advice and help – your due diligence needs to be completely independent of the people selling you the investment, it is all too easy to set up websites and glossy marketing materials that make an investment appear legitimate. I also want to warn specifically about the use of Escrow agents. This gang made use of Escrow agents to transfer the money, and highlighted that the agent was registered with the Financial Services Agency. In the case the Escrow agents were only there to help the transfer of money, they had no part in the fraud, there was no FCA protection, and it did not mean the investment was genuine.”

How To Avoid Investment Scams.

Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, articulate and financially knowledgeable. They know how to sell their product and they have all the tools to do so successfully. Fraudsters can appear so legitimate, It can be hard to distinguish from the real thing.

The Financial Conduct Authority offers advise on how to protect yourself from investment scams, and how to check you’re dealing with an authorised firm.

Reject unexpected offers: If you are contacted out of the blue about an investment opportunity, chances are it’s a high-risk investment or a scam. Scammers usually cold-call but contact can also come by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar or exhibition. If you get cold-called the safest thing to do is hang up. If you get unexpected offers by email or text, it’s best to simply ignore them. You can register with the Telephone Preference Service and Mailing Preference Service to reduce the number of letters and cold calls you receive. Callers may pretend they aren’t cold calling you by referring to a brochure or an email they sent you, that’s why it’s important you know how to spot the other warning signs.

Spot the warning signs, fraudsters will often: Apply pressure to invest quickly, offer you incentives to invest by a certain date. They will downplay the risks to your money, they will use legal jargon to suggest the investment is safe. Make promises of returns that are farfetched and too good to be true.

Check anyone you are dealing with is FCA-authorised: Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by the FCA. You can check on the FCA website to see if they are authorised, and also, to check if the firms reference number and contact details are the same as on the FCA register. The FCA website also provides consumers with a ‘Warning List’ to check the risks of a potential investment, you can also search to see if the firm is known to be operating without authorisation. And if you are at all suspicious, report it by calling the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.