The UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has warned investors to keep any eye out for the common practice of cloning. A clone firm is typically used to contact investors out of the blue, for example using cold calling tactics. A recent example, AMC Capital Invest, is pretending to be a legitimate French investment firm, but is using UK phone numbers and website.
In this case it would be particularly difficult for investors to establish that the cloned version of AMC is not a regulated UK subsidiary. Many fraudsters, for example, will even clone the FCA registration details of the original firm, including the firm reference number.
“These scammers typically cold-call investors to promote shares, property or other investment opportunities that are non-tradable, worthless, overpriced or even non-existent,” the FCA said. “We have also heard of fraudsters claiming that a firm’s contact details on the [FCA Register] are out of date, but this is unlikely, as we update the Register each evening.”
Scammers often claim to be from overseas firms that appear on the Register, as these firms do not always have their full contact details listed. More sophisticated variants will even copy the website of the authorised firm, making subtle changes such as to the phone number. The FCA has even seen fake versions of its own website and Register circulated that include the contact details of the fraudster rather than the genuine, authorised firm.
The FCA is advising investors to double check all offerings from unknown companies against its website and Register. Customers should take contact details and then call the company back using the details on the FCA Register to double check their legitimacy. Access the Register directly on the FCA’s website – do not use links provided in emails on in the company’s website. These can direct you to possible fake FCA websites.
Investors should take extreme care if they have been cold-called with a financial offering. If you invest with a cloned firm and lose your money, you will not have recourse to either the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if things go wrong.