The UK arm of international advisory firm deVere Group has been the target of another cloning scam, with perpetrators imitating its advisers and forging business cards to dupe clients, the firm's UK chief has said today.
Head of financial planning Kevin White said sophisticated scammers were going to "extraordinary lengths" to dupe large numbers of people into investing in their schemes.
He said they had targeted consumers in deVere's name, even impersonating its staff, while copying the group's branding right down to its stationary.
He said: "It has become clear that scammers are using the identity of deVere United Kingdom to dupe unsuspecting people into investing large amounts of their life savings based on their so-called ‘advice', often using aggressive sales tactics.
"The fraudsters are going to extraordinary lengths to make their scam look genuine. They are adopting a company name and address which could easily be mistaken for our legitimate ones, they are designing websites, stationery, and business cards to appear like our legitimate ones, and some are even going as far as impersonating our legitimate advisers."
The group already fell victim to a cloning scam in May and is now preparing a follow-up report to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
White pointed out that cloning was becoming increasingly widespread and was particulalrly dangerous for investors who will not qualify for protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service.
In addition, the practice threatened to undermine consumer confidence in financial services yet again, he said.
Consumers who suspect they might have been contacted by a clone should contact the FCA for help, White advised.
The FCA's recently drawn up recommended steps for investors to avoid being duped by clone firms include:
• Check the FCA register to ensure the firm and individuals are regulated.
• Call the firms back and ask for their firm reference number and contact details.
• Make additional checks on the company's website, with Companies House and directory enquiries.
• Search the FCA's list of unauthorised firms.
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