Stupid Punts!

Stupid Punts!


Examples of the "Nigerian scam" that flood my email box everyday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How To Outwit Boiler Room Scammers

The Telegraph has a helpful article about boiler room scams, which I reproduce in full below:

"As a victim of "boiler room" activities I wondered if it would be worth reinforcing the message to your readers not to consider the purchase of shares offered over the telephone. They were very persistent and I was particularly vulnerable as a pensioner and my wife in hospital and I agreed to the purchase of shares.

Some weeks later I received a warning letter from the Financial Services Authority. By which time it was too late. In hindsight I realise how silly I was. It is, of course, too late for me, but if it might prevent similar problems for any of your readers a warning may be useful.


The firm you have been a victim of appeared on the FSA scam list just a week before you wrote to me so, had you checked the site when it approached you, you wouldn't have found its name there.

This, cruelly, is the way with these tricksters and, which is apparently part of their nature, these people caught you out when your defences were low and things in your life at a low ebb. These con men are adept psychologists with no scruples about who and how much they hurt people.

From your letter and those that appeared in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, it is clear that it is not necessarily those you might expect who get caught out by such scams. Indeed, often it is people with some financial knowledge, on which crooks cleverly play.

One of the readers scammed in this way is a certified accountant and Lloyd's underwriter. Another is a chartered accountant, one has an MBE and another is a professor.

City of London police strongly advise people not to buy shares or land from cold callers. David Honeywell, a reader featured in yesterday's column, also reiterates, from his bitter experience, the police's message, which is that by far the best approach is simply not to get involved.

Anyone who still feels tempted should know that if a firm is unauthorised, financial complaints and compensation schemes cannot step in should anything go wrong.

To find out a firm's status go to the FSA website ( and type "unauthorised firms" in the search box. This list mainly consists of overseas firms about which there has been a certain amount of bad feedback, so will not show every dodgy concern. Check out the regulator's authorised list too.

If the firm appears to be genuine, the FSA said would-be investors should always call the switchboard number if one is given on its register. I would suggest that they might also check that the person who called is an employee. Bear in mind though that I have encountered instances where the name of an honest employee has been hijacked.

Therefore speak to the person named to establish that they are one and the same. Possibly consult directory inquiries to confirm the number as well. Mr Honeywell, who was conned in a very sophisticated heist, points out that this way of checking is not infallible.

If the register of authorised firms does not show the number, as applies with most of the genuine overseas companies listed, call the FSA's helpline on 0845 606 1234. Then log onto the website cited on the register to compare the details.

Check with Companies House via or 0303 1234 500.

Try a Google search to see if the name crops up in any way, perhaps on internet forums. gives fraud prevention advice and has alerts of the latest scams.

If you are caught out it is important to notify Action Fraud, which serves as a portal to pass information on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

A report of the crime can be registered online or the incident talked through with an Action Fraud adviser to create a report. This government helpline number is 0300 123 2040 and is open from Mondays to Fridays between 8am and 8pm; on Saturdays between 9am and 4pm; and Sundays between 10am and 4pm. A crime reference number will be issued. The intelligence provided helps give a far bigger picture for dealing with the issues raised and help police to understand where they can efficiently target their resources.

Also check out the helpful website.

Although the FSA also said it was heavily reliant on information it receives from consumers about boiler room activity, I was disconcerted to find that details of the frauds perpetrated on CC and GK, both featured in Saturday's page, were not recorded with it even though both these readers said they had contacted the regulator and there is no reason to disbelieve them.

I checked out the guidance on the website for reporting such matters to the FSA and found that a number that would not have been relevant after early 2010 was still shown as one to contact. FSA apologises for leaving that number on view, although, as it says, it was on a press release on its website. As a result of my observations it has now been deleted.

It now transpires that last summer, when CC looked for a number to call, he acquired the same out-of-date number and called it. Although no harm will have come from reporting details to that number, clearly no good came out of it in CC's case as the information he gave was not properly registered. The FSA must keep crucial information on its website up to date.

Victims should call the 0845 606 1234 helpline, selecting option 3.

As if all this was not enough, people caught out in this way also need to watch out for "recovery rooms" offering help, as ever at a price, to help recover money for those defrauded by boiler room scams. An FSA spokesperson said: "The people calling are often the same chaps sitting across the office from one another or they may even be the same person who 'sold' the shares.

"Typically they might say, 'I hear you have some shares to sell, send me an administration fee.' Then nothing is heard of them again."

Remember that it is often during holiday times when people may be less on their guard or, as in some of the cases I hear about, when life has hit a low point that in comes a so-called friend to make the sad times sadder.

Then, for all the ready charm and the respectable veneer adopted by such swindlers when they want something, they cannot be talked round to taking a compassionate stance when the victim finds themselves confronted with personal ruin.

Nor, as these stories illustrate, should people put their faith in foreign banks to rescue them from such scams.

Finally, it is a tribute to the characters of the readers writing in about their experiences that they had the courage to do so. Hopefully this will prevent others being caught out in the same way. The FSA estimates that only 10pc of those caught out by such scams report them. "

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