Over-55s put on investment scam alert

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Wigan over-55s are being warned not to let investment fraudsters flatter them into parting with their cash, with the average victim of the scam losing more than £30,000.

Less than half of people in this age group are confident they know how to spot a fraudulent investment opportunity, according to a survey from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The regulator is warning consumers to be “sceptical and cautious” before investing their money, and that fraudsters will often use psychological games to trap victims, such as flattery or forcing someone to make a quick decision on a “special deal”.

It warned that if someone invests their cash with an unauthorised firm, they will have no protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. These bodies help consumers to get their money back if something goes wrong. Last year, victims of investment fraud lost £32,000 on average.

The FCA said flattery is a common tactic used to swindle people. This could include a scammer praising their victim for being a “knowledgeable investor”.

Fraudsters may also pressurise potential investors to make a quick decision on a “limited time” investment offer. Pension freedoms introduced in 2015, which give over-55s more choice over how they use their pension pots, could be seen as an extra opportunity by fraudsters to target people in this age group.

Mark Steward, director of enforcement at the FCA, said: “Be alert to the warning signs like being contacted out of the blue, promises of low risk and/or guaranteed above market returns, special deals just for you, time pressure and, very often, flattery.”

The FCA runs a campaign called ScamSmart, which alerts people to the dangers of scams. It urges people to consider getting impartial advice before investing, checking the FCA’s register to see if a firm or person is authorised and checking the FCA’s warning list of firms to avoid.