Financial fraudsters are using the name of fund management group Fidelity to con investors out of their cash.
One victim, Robert Paterson - a reader of our sister magazine Money Observer – says he recently received a telephone call from someone claiming to be a broker working for Fidelity.
The broker, calling herself Suzanne Beansley, referred to a previous investment Paterson made in 2009 when he spent more than £10,000 on gold bars - an investment he eventually came to believe was itself a scam.
Beansley told him the original investment company - Capital Mint - had gone into liquidation, and that for a fee of £1,242 they could 'unfreeze' his assets and pay him out for his gold investment, which she said was now worth almost double its original value.
When Paterson asked for the liquidator's name and contact number, the broker claimed chartered accountant Grant Thornton was in charge of the liquidation, and gave him a contact number. Fortunately he recognised that number as the same one being used to contact him by 'Fidelity'.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has a warning on its website posted in November 2014, saying scammers are using the Fidelity name to con investors – specifically Fidelity Capital Ltd and Fidelity Capital UK – but it makes no mention of Grant Thornton.
A spokesperson for Fidelity Worldwide Investment said: “Fidelity Capital is not associated in any way with Fidelity Worldwide Investment which offers funds from Fidelity and other leading asset management companies at fidelity.co.uk. We would never contact an investor offering to ‘unfreeze’ assets held with another company. If anyone receives a call from Fidelity that they believe is suspicious they can call our customer service team on InvestorLine on 0800 41 41 61.”
Other 'clone' firms – those that use the name of a regulated and reputable company to foster confidence in investors – have operated under the names of legitimate entities such as Artemis Fund Managers, Kames, and BlackRock.
One tactic commonly used by fraudsters is to contact previous scam victims – many of whom are desperate to get their money back – and tell them that it is possible to recover their funds for a modest fee. This fee, of course, is just another way of milking more money out of unsuspecting people.
Because Companies House conducts no checks of identification or address for new companies and their directors, it is easy for fraudsters to set up one firm after another, making it difficult for regulators or police to track them down.
Although Companies House has previously said it is considering implementing tougher controls, no new checks have been introduced at the time of writing.
The FCA's advice is to hang up on cold-callers immediately and to seek help from a professional financial adviser rather than relying on advice from whoever is selling a product.
Action Fraud UK says you should always report fraud to it at: actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud.