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Largest group ever warned over financial con risk

Friday 27th April 2012

The Financial Services Authority is contacting 76,732 people to let them know they are targets for fraudsters trying to con them out of their money.

Their names appeared on a number of lists recovered from companies that the FSA believes were fraudulently selling investments in land or worthless, sometimes non-existent, shares.

Combined into one list, this is the largest number of target victims that the FSA has ever contacted in one go.

Letters from the regulator will be arriving on people’s doormats this week. Most of the list contains the names and addresses of the targets, but in 19,101 cases only email addresses are listed, therefore the FSA will be sending those people an email warning.

The letter, which can be found online, provides tips on how to spot a scam, avoid becoming a victim and what to do if you have already invested. Recipients should be aware that the FSA will not call them for further information and will never ask for money, bank account or personal details.

Jonathan Phelan, the FSA’s head of unauthorised business, said: "If you get a letter or email from the FSA over the next five or six weeks, please read it – it could you save you tens of thousands of pounds.

"If you have already been contacted by a firm offering you a 'once in lifetime' investment opportunity or have already invested, then tell us. The information you have could help us catch criminals and shut down their scams."

Phelan added: "These lists are nothing more than fraudsters’ phone books and the people that use them are ruthless, calculated and will stop at nothing to steal your money. A call out of the blue is one of the hallmarks of investment scams, so if you ever get an unexpected call with promises of fantastic returns - you should be extremely sceptical.

"We would like to extend our thanks to all of the banks that have created dedicated help lines for their own customers. Contacting over 75,000 people is an enormous task but the assistance they have provided means we are able to contact and offer help to a vast number of people as quickly as possible."

The FSA recommends the following steps for people that have been contacted by a firm offering to buy or sell investments:

* Be especially wary if you are contacted out of the blue;
* Check the firm or individual’s status on the FSA Register;
* Call the firm back on the switchboard number provided on the FSA Register to make sure that the call came from the legitimate authorised firm;
* Check the FSA’s 'warning list' to see if the FSA has published a warning about the firm;
* Consider getting independent financial or professional advice;
* Remember that if it sounds to good to be true - it probably is; and
* If in doubt – contact the FSA.

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Mike Jones

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