WHAT YOU NEED TO BE WARY OF
The following is based on an article published in the ShareSoc November 2014 newsletter.
ShareSoc receives many calls about dubious investments –
1. You are contacted unexpectedly about an investment opportunity through a cold call, email, or follow up call after receiving a promotional brochure out of the blue.
2. You are pressured to invest in a time-
3. The risks to your money are downplayed, for example you are told that you will own assets you can sell yourself if the investment doesn’t work as expected, or legal jargon is used to suggest the investment is very safe.
4. The returns sound too good to be true, for example, better interest rates than those offered elsewhere.
5. You are called repeatedly and kept on the phone for a long time.
6. You are told the offer is only available for a limited time or to a limited group of people.
The nature of these scams has changed somewhat over the years –
a) Those over a certain age (i.e. above normal retirement age) who have little real investment experience and get pushed into investments in unlisted companies, which are often alleged to be about to list. In other words investments which should normally only be sold to “sophisticated” investors with substantial experience of such investments or are high net worth individuals. The investors concerned appear to be gullible, and sometimes verging on senility without it being immediately obvious, and have an unreasonable trusting faith in the person who is selling them the investment (like all con-
b) Younger investors who again have little experience and are attracted by “green”, eco-
c) Investors in “alternative assets”, such as wine, diamonds, carbon credits, vintage automobiles and other exotica. The market for such assets is often exceedingly opaque, and once you are in you can’t get out. It might be exciting to own such “investments” and give you a warm feeling but usually the returns are negative.
d) Investors in gold and other precious metals, or holes in the ground of other kinds –
e) Property investors where the proposition is usually to borrow money to buy the asset and you are in a geared play on the equity. After all property is “safe” is it not and will always have a value? Perhaps so but that does not mean you are going to make money from it. That particularly applies to overseas property investments and such things as “part-
Do you fall into any of the above categories or are considering such investments? If so go to the FCA web site (at www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart ) to at least check whether you are dealing with an authorised firm and review what they have to say. Also make sure you take some advice from an accountant, solicitor or anyone with some investment experience because usually the scams are pretty obvious to anyone other than the patsy.
One of the key principles is never to listen to anyone who phones you out of the blue without any prior contact (and if they claim some previous contact do not believe them either unless you remember them). Indeed it’s probably safer to go ex-
In summary, if you think there are golden fleece out there just ready to be plucked from trees, then it is likely to be you that will be fleeced instead.