Published on: 4 May 2023

What are investment scams?

Investment scams come in many shapes and sizes. And spotting them isn’t always easy.

One of the tactics scammers use is pretending to be a genuine investment firm to trick you into investing. They copy the names of big, well-known companies and use similar email addresses and telephone numbers. They even spoof their websites.

Criminals also set up fake, unregulated firms that look real. You’ll often be invited to invest in assets like property, gold and cryptocurrency. But they may offer other things. And they frequently lure you in with large, too good to be true returns. They also send their victims fake reviews of the firm and pretend that other clients have invested or want in on the deal, urging you to invest quickly.

There are lots of ways scammers might contact you. Cold calling, spam emails, social media messages and phone calls after you search for investment opportunities online or respond to adverts are common. Often, they’ll contact you repeatedly to pressure you into a hasty decision.

Sometimes, they may even pay small returns to start with, to sweeten the deal and trick you into investing more of your money.

However, the scammers will then disappear with your money. The investment never really existed.

Cryptocurrency scams

Cryptocurrency scams are when scammers offer a fake, but convincing opportunity to make a profit by investing in cryptocurrency, a virtual currency. Some scammers will target you after you’ve asked about a cryptocurrency or a cryptoasset investment advertised online.

To access the investment, you may be told you need a crypto wallet. Scammers may offer to set one up for you, but then empty it of your money.  If you have one already, criminals may ask information about your existing crypto wallet in order to gain access to it. Remember, many cryptocurrency investments are not regulated, so you’re unlikely to get your money back if something goes wrong.

Recovery scams

If you’ve ever lost money to an investment, or been victim to an investment scam, criminals may contact you claiming that they can recover your lost money. This is a recovery scam. They may pretend to be a legitimate company and could claim that they can make an arrest.

Some quick tips for investing securely

  • Avoid unexpected investment offers.
    Even if you’ve been searching for investments online, be wary of anyone contacting you out of the blue about investing. 

  • Seek expert help from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
    The FCA register (opens in a new window) lists all the authorised firms, how to contact those firms and what activities each firm can be involved in. If the firm you’ve been contacted by isn’t on the register, don't invest. If they're using contact details that are even slightly different from what is listed on the register, don't invest. You can also try calling the number on the register to check if it’s a genuine opportunity. If they're not authorised to offer investments in the product you're being offered, don't invest. It’s a scam. The FCA also have a warning list (opens in a new window) of firms to avoid.

  • Get impartial investment advice.
    All investment comes with risk. You should always get impartial advice before committing to any investments. We have expert financial advisers who will take the time to get to know you and your financial situation.

  • Never share your screen with an investment firm.
    Increasingly, scammers are offering to ‘help’ their victims by tricking them into downloading software or an app that gives access to the victim’s PC or phone. The victim is told that it’s there to help walk them through the process, especially if they’re not familiar with investing. This is a trap. The scammers access their victim’s bank account and start making payments to fake firms.

  • Recognise too good to be true offers and don’t always trust realistic returns.
    We’d love if there were investments with unusually high returns and little to no risk. But it’s just not the case. It’s also important to remember that some scammers offer more realistic returns to gain your trust.

How we can help

If you’re making a payment from your Nationwide current account to someone else in the UK and you're not sure about it, you can talk to us about it first. This can be a payment in branch, on our Banking app or Internet Bank, or through Open Banking. This is our Scam Checker Service. Some payments are excluded.

Stop. Challenge. Protect

We're proud to be supporting the industry fraud awareness campaign Take Five, which encourages you to perfect the art of saying NO to criminals by taking five minutes to Stop, Challenge, Protect.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police so it can be difficult to spot scam texts, emails and phone calls. However, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves.

Always remember to challenge if someone contacts you asking for your personal or financial information – be direct and say NO. Saying NO can feel uncomfortable but it’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

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