09 June 2020

Investment scams: What to watch out for

Criminals are taking advantage of the many uncertainties due to coronavirus and targeting consumers with clever investment scams.

What is an investment scam?

Investment scams are when criminals try to convince people to move their money to a fund that doesn’t exist, or to pay for a fake investment. They'll usually promise a large amount of money back in return, in order to entice someone into making the transfer.

These scams can include investment in items such as gold, property, carbon credits, cryptocurrencies, land banks and wine.

Criminals may pretend to be from a genuine company

Watch out for criminals pretending to be from a genuine company (called a ‘clone firm’). They will use the name, ‘firm registration number’ (FRN) and address of firms and individuals authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to suggest they are genuine. They have also been known to use the names and details of real employees working at the firm to make the scam seem more believable.

How to spot an investment scam

Warning signs that you might have been contacted about an investment scam include:


  • Unexpected contact – Traditionally, scammers cold-call, but contact can also come from online sources such as email or social media, post, word of mouth or even in person at a seminar or exhibition.
  • Time pressure – You might be offered a bonus or discount if you invest before a set date, or you might be told the opportunity is only available for a short period.
  • Social proof – The fraudster may share fake reviews and claim other clients have invested or want access to the deal.
  • Unrealistic returns – Fraudsters often promise tempting returns that sound too good to be true, such as much better interest rates than elsewhere.
  • False authority – They might use convincing literature and websites, claiming to be regulated and speaking with authority on investment products.
  • Flattery – They may try to build a friendship with you to lull you into a false sense of security.

If an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How to protect yourself

Don’t be pressured into making a quick investment decision. Here are some tips to avoid falling victim:


  • Check that the firm is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can do this by using the register on the FCA’s website.
  • Check that it’s not a ‘cloned company’ as fraudsters can pretend to be a genuine firm. Do this by checking for any other websites under the same name.
  • Make sure you use contact details on the FCA’s register, not the details given to you directly from the company, or by the person who made contact with you.
  • Do your research and always get independent advice. Use the FCA Warning List to check the risks against any potential investment.

The Financial Conduct Authority has created a guide on investment scams and how to protect yourself.

Read the FCA guide to Investment Scams.

If you’re worried you’ve been scammed, contact us right away.

For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud, read our guide to the latest scams.

The content displayed on our recent news and articles page is for information purposes only, and is accurate at the time of publication. The information will not be maintained, and so we cannot guarantee that at any given time the information will be up to date or complete. Please verify any information you take before relying on it.

Nationwide is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites. Nationwide does not make any recommendation or endorse any advertising, products, services or other content on such external websites. Views expressed on third party websites are those of the public and unless specifically stated, are not those of Nationwide.

Most popular

You may also be interested in...

Our helpful guides

We've created a range of helpful guides to help you make better financial decisions regardless of your circumstances. Find out more about owning property, growing wealth and planning for life events.

Our products

Whether you are after a current account, a savings account or even looking for a mortgage, Nationwide has a range of great products that could help you, no matter the situation.