Bitcoin and other investments are being used to lure people into fraud, the UK’s financial watchdog said.
The scammers are contacting people online and through social networks to offer them the opportunity to invest in cryptocurrencies and financial instruments.
The requests often promise great benefits and are combined with images of watches and expensive cars, in an attempt to attract people to invest.
But any money that investors deliver could be locked up, and scammers would change prices on their website, forcing people to pay extreme amounts of money to recover their investment, or simply take it and refuse to pay it back.
The increase in the price of Bitcoin and interest in buying it has also led to an increase in the number of people trying to cheat potential investors. The Independent’s guide to buying bitcoin, and not being scammed, can be found here.
The director of the Financial Conduct Authority has already warned bitcoin investors that they end up buying the cryptocurrency legitimately and that they should be prepared to “lose all their money”.
As part of the new warnings, FCA said the figures show that investors lost £ 87,410 per day in binary options scams last year in the UK. Binary options allow people to make a bet on the expected value or the price of something that can be measured in financial terms, such as stocks, commodities, currencies or indices.
On January 3, binary options became a regulated investment product, which means that all companies that quote in binary options will need to be authorized by the FCA.
Scammers can create very professional looking online websites with false reviews from customers, logos and statements to attract potential investors.
The FCA said that an increase in the number of people who focus online means that the profile of the victims of investment scams is changing.
While those over 55 have been at greater risk of investment fraud in the past, research conducted as part of the FCA ScamSmart campaign suggests that those under 25 may be particularly susceptible to this type of fraud. .
It was found that people under 25 years were six times more likely to trust an investment offer they received through social networks, compared to people over 55 years.
Mark Steward, application manager at the FCA, said: “As people have become more skeptical about cold calls related to investment and consumer habits have changed, we have seen online investment fraud and social networks.
“Although their websites and profiles appear to be professional, they are too often executed by fraudsters who fix prices and payments, or in some cases do not actually perform operations, before disappearing with the money of innocent investors.
“Before investing online, check with whom you are actually dealing with and verify if they are authorized by the FCA, discover how to avoid scams on the ScamSmart website and, if you have any questions, do not invest.”
TV presenter Nick Hewer, who is supporting the campaign, added: “The amount that is lost every day from online investment fraud, such as binary options scams, is staggering.
“It is vital that everyone on social media is extremely cautious when participating in any conversation or with ads that relate to quick winnings or guaranteed returns, especially with people or companies you do not know.
“Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, if you are offered an attractive investment out of thin air, be suspicious, check the FCA Warning List and seek impartial advice.
“Better yet, if you receive an email or message about an investment from someone you do not know, just delete it.”