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Scam watch: the share-buying phone scam

Well-informed fraudsters are targeting investors in a seemingly sophisticated share scam. Here’s how one Which? member was almost caught out by a share-buying telephone scam.

11/11/2019: Shareholders persistently targeted

We’ve noticed a spike in shareholders persistently being targeted by this scam, which we first reported back in 2014.

Comments such as this one have become a regular occurrence here on Which? Conversation:

A member of the public also got in contact with Which? Money recently when they were phoned out of the blue by a company named ‘Sunburst Consulting Group’.

It knew about some worthless shares they had in a telecoms firm, but told them they were worth £40,000 and that they’d found a private buyer – they even sent a contract for the ‘sale’.

This contract included a non-disclosure agreement and wanted them to buy an ‘insurance bond’ for £3,750.

At this point, they were right to become concerned and break off contact. It seems likely that if they’d paid the ‘bond’, their money would have disappeared, along with the ‘buyer’.

We tried to contact Sunburst Consulting Group via email, but it bounced back.

Scammers often target those who have stakes in defunct firms, or ones that have been taken over.

Any claims that your shares can be purchased for far more than their usual value should immediately raise suspicions. If you need help getting your money back after a scam, visit our guide.

Have you been targeted by a share-buying scam? Continue to let us know and warn others in the comments.

24/11/2014: Original Convo

By Joe Elvin

The Which? member told us: I have been the target of an international telephone share scam involving a fictitious hostile takeover. The caller knew my full name and that I had purchased shares in a certain company back in 2001.

He claimed I had a registered holding of ‘incentive shares’ in this company, credited because I was a long-term shareholder, and that he was representing a client that wished to mount a hostile takeover of this company.

He asked if I would be willing to sell my shares at between £10 and £15 per share, which I said that I would be willing to do.

I was soon contacted by another client who told me that the sale and purchase would proceed via a ‘transfer agent’, but part of the transaction involved an insurance bond by both parties where I would need to put up almost £5,000.

I was already suspicious, but at this point I knew the whole deal was fraudulent.

This was a remarkably sophisticated fraud attempt, involving apparently legitimate companies, with company logos, legitimate telephone numbers, and plausible looking web sites. I would like to prevent anyone becoming a victim.

Our say on investment scams

These companies may have put a bit of effort into appearing legitimate, but anyone who calls you out of the blue about an investment opportunity is almost certainly a fraudster.

These scammers are likely to have obtained most of your details from the shareholders’ register.

Those who want to double-check the legitimacy of a financial company should check if it is listed on the FCA’s Financial Services Register.

Anyone who is contacted by an unregulated firm, as you were, should report the companies involved to the FCA and Action Fraud.

Have you been a victim of this scam or a similar one? Do you have any tips for spotting an unregulated firm?

Peter says:
25 November 2019

I have just been contacted by Katherine Lowes of the acquisition department of Royale International Partners LLC offering to buy my shares in GVC Holdings, which I sold some time ago. Royale sent through an email with an NDA attached for me to sign. They mentioned that an escrow system would be used to buy the shares which immediately raised a red flag. Plausible website but a bit of digging shows that this was registered 5 days ago! I have concluded that this is a scam.

George Hudson says:
26 November 2019

We have been contacted by a Barbara Powers and then subsequently Brian Maloney about my wife’s shares in Cable & Wireless, which she had soled several years ago. they said that through scrip issues she has 2156 shares and they need to buy them to get to 51% of the company they want to but. They have made several calls and an NDA has been signed and sent back to them but the clincher is that they will need some type of Ins. Bond. That isn’t going to happen.
Interestingly i called them back on the number on their website, which was different from the one he had called me from ten minutes earlier and it came up, Balboa co-op Delivery. Another number last week came up as having come from Bruges and not NYC. So be warned they are out there.

Steve Taylor says:
28 November 2019

Representatives of Thompson-Russo Securities LLC first contacted me by phone as to the selling of the Kingfisher PLC shares.
The explanation was they were acting on behalf of a client wanting to make a hostile bid because they were after the licences held by Kingfisher.
Various regular phone calls follow and then a non-disclosure agreement sent by email for me to complete and return.
Later conversations tell me I have 3500 SCRIP shares (I only have four shares!) leaving me to do the maths of 3500 x £15 ………….
In life if anything sounds and looks to good to be true then time to phone Kingfisher (breaking the NDA …!!) and they confirm I have …………. four shares.
I Googled and looked on this site for share scams and what I read was too similar to what was happening here.
Received another call this morning and the agreed share price of £11.50 for 3500 = …….. Now they start to go into their fee but unfortunately the line goes dead …………was looking forward to the next part of the conversation

We have also received a phone call from someone saying they were from Thompson Russo. They had information on the shares that was 2 years out of date.

John Bounds says:
2 December 2019

Yes just had a call from American accented “Sean Snyder” at Thompson-Russo exactly the same story as Steve except the shares are in a defunct Chemical company in which we had a small number of shares many years ago. I had a look and Thompso-Russo have a basic website which claims they have 16 offices around the world. Non disclosure has arrived by email and I imagine if we send that back “Sean” will attempt to hit us for a Bond fee or some such. Good luck with that Sean. Having said that, at first glance this is a fairly plausible story and will certainly work in some cases.

Yes we got a call too this evening from Brian Maloney re Cable and Wireless shares and it was all a load of baloney and pleased I found this thread which further confirmed what we thought. The old adage you don’t get something for nothing rings very true. We had gave our few shares we had left to charity years ago!

christopher pridmore says:
30 November 2019

I have just had a telephone from a lady supposedly representing a client who wishes to buy my Cable and Wireless/Liberty shares in a takeover. They were offering between £25 to £30. They asked for my e-mail or fax to send me the details. At this stage I suspected a scam. I asked them to put everything in a formal letter with all the details. The lady said she couldn’t do this. I hung up.

Daniel Bennett says:
29 November 2019

Received a call from a Ms Jade Clarkson from First Allied Advisory Services who wanted to purchase my shares in Morrisons. They said I held 1299 shares when I had sold many of them years ago. They wanted to know if I would be willing to sell my shares for between £6 – £12 ( now worth £2) as the buyer held 39% of the company and was looking to purchase 51%. If he succeeded my remaining shares would be worthless. They sent me a non disclosure form to sign and when they held enough shares in a holding account we would receive the payment in 90 days. Don’t be fooled.

Gillian de Bono says:
7 December 2019

I have also been contacted by Samantha Powers of Wells Capital Partners about buying my Cable & Wireless/Liberty Global shares as part of a hostile takeover. She is incredibly well rehearsed, came across as extremely knowledgable about Cable & Wireless shareholders, and her phone number is precisely the one listed on the Wells Capital Partners website. I ended up signing an NDA and a contract to sell my shares, with a promise to transfer a “refundable Bond” of around £4,000. However I said I would need to do due diligence on all the companies involved in the trade before sending any money and the contract did not give the full company name of eg Fidelity Insurance, the company supposedly executing it. She assured me I would have these in my next contract but I suspect I will not hear from her again. On further checking, the money transfer service (Shield International Transfer) named in the contract has an “insecure” website. This is a very sophisticated scam and it took me several hours of Googling to find these comments by Which? readers. There must be many Cable & Wireless shareholders being targeted and it would be of service to them to get this story in the national press.

Ewan Cappitt says:
9 December 2019

Had a phone call last Thursday 5 Dec ’19, from chap representing some company making enquiry about my Howden Joinery shares, said represented company wishing to make a take over bid and prepared to pay between £10 & £15 for shares presently priced at about £6.50. Wanted me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, said would post it but after I thanked and turned off I heard nothing more.

ann Capes says:
10 December 2019

I to had a call from Thompson-Russo Securities, the lady had a strong American accent , her name was Cynthia, said I had some Ligand Pharmaceutical shares, and that they had a buyer for them, offered way above the price. But to sell them, I would have to pay a £5, 062.22 security Bond. They also used Greenpoint International Transfer as another one of their companies. There is no buyer, and there weren’t any shares. I reported them to the police over in the UK and to FINRA in the usa.

Alice Blanchard says:
12 December 2019

I have also had several phone calls from Royale International offering to buy the few Sainsbury’s shares I acquired as an employee profit share 20-odd years ago. Again this was supposed to be related to a hostile takeover, and somehow my meagre holding had multiplied 100-fold because of a stock split that ‘the registrar wasn’t yet aware of’. There was the non-disclosure agreement others have mentioned, and today Brian Maloney went into the line about how the seller would have to contribute to an ‘insurance bond’. It all sounded a bit too good to be true, as I indeed told him, and I am so glad I found this website to confirm my suspicions. Incidentally, the real Royale International appears to be a parcel delivery firm in Illinois, and has a rating of 2.8 (out of 5) on Glassdoor.

Anne Harris says:
16 December 2019

I had a call tonight from a number in Denmark 0045 wanting me to sell Artisan shares stating that their client was keen to increase holding. Last share price was 3 pence and she quoted £10 -£15. Wanted to email a nda but I told her to post. Thought it was a scam

Lynda says:
16 December 2019

This evening I have had a telephone call from a Lady with a strong American accent, saying she was from a Company called Royale International Partners LLC in New York asking if I would like to sell some shares I have already sold! She said I had gained extra ones through a bonus scheme, instead of a Dividend. I did not believe this but gave her my email address. She said their legal team would find the shares and she mentioned an Insurance Bond and non disclosure agreements and offered between £9 and £15 per share! Looking up the phone number the code was from Iceland and having even more doubts, I started looking on line and found this site. Many thanks

Stan Holden says:
17 December 2019

Thank heavens for this website. I was contacted by a company called Royal International Partners LLC about 10 days ago about Stagecoach shares I previously held and sold some years ago. Apparently I still hold 1800 shares (??) and was asked if I would I be interested in selling them at a price of between £5-£9 (currently priced at £1.52 a share). A rival company requires 51% to instigate a takeover and they currently own 43%, my shares being part of the remaining 8% needed. After signing a non-disclosure agreement, further phone calls were made to update me on progress. TODAY, it has been suggested that I may be needed to post an insurance bond to ensure the deal goes through. ALARM BELLS ringing very loudly. So I have checked out the internet and came across this website, the stories here are the same as mine. Don’t get taken in, and especially don’t hand over any of your hard earned money. Report it, which I will be doing right away.

Karen Salisbury says:
20 January 2020

We’ve had a call about Wolsely Ferguson Shares we were apparently granted as a bonus scheme from Share Financial Services Inc. Very persuasive call, but we are a bit suspicious. and found this article thank you.
Be aware they are doing the rounds as of today.
We are sending them the article for their comment 🙂

Have just had a call from someone claiming to represent a client planning a takeover bid for WPP and offering to buy our shares for an inflated price so they could get 51% control. They wanted to email me the offer. I said we operated a very high level of security in our household and owing to the number of scams there are we do not give out any information over the phone. I invited them to post their offer and details and they finished the call!

Graham Bunting says:
21 January 2020

I also received an offer – of £12 to £18 – for my WPP shares. I asked them to email details and just received the “NDA”. Thanks to this site, I think I know where this going. Thanks again.

Hugh says:
22 January 2020

We have had a very similar experience to Simon. Last week someone in the USA phoned several times saying they were from Benson Mines Consultancy, offering to buy our shares in a company that had folded, on behalf of an interested client! They sent us an NDA with a link to a very convincing website, however we were unsure; although it was always the same American lady, Anna, the phone numbers were 003xxx which do not relate to any country code. We Googled for scams relating to shares and were pleased to be directed to this conversation. We contacted Which, who agreed that it was a scam; fortunately we did not part with any money.

Linda Dudman says:
Today 15:42

I have had the same experience – Anna Ellison, then Maria Cross, talking to me about scrip shares from a company I worked for over 16 years ago. Interestingly when I took calls on my mobile phone the caller’s number showed either Greece or France, not the US where they said they were calling from. The website for Benson Mines Consultancy looks plausible but there is no record of this company anywhere else that I could find. Likewise, the money transfer company on the NDA – mintglobalinternationaltransfers.com. I did sign and return the NDA they sent me but I won’t be putting up the 2% bond they would like. When it sounds to good to be true it usually is.

Today 09:52

Took an international phone call 22/1/2020 from an ‘intermediary firm’ representing a client looking to buy out shares in Cadbury Schweppes as part of a potential take over. Very well spoken (but fast talking) lady of Indian / Asian ethnicity. She wanted to speak to my late father in whose name the shares were originally registered. As Executor they seemed to have got my home phone number from a registration base somewhere. Wanted to send me a non-disclosure agreement by email or fax, which would no doubt have then involved some form of payment by me, or giving them access to my bank account details to supposedly pay for the shares – which I had disposed of as part of the Kraft take-over of CS. Now that I have been alerted to this conversation and read where it could lead, I can see how this might have played out, and I could have been reeled in. I terminated the call.