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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 Ellis says:
23 July 2020

Just had a call from someone speaking poor English possibly a Chinese accent wanting to talk about shares I hold in J Sainsbury plc. I was told his investor client had built a 49% holding. He continued through a prepared script but I interrupted the presentation by saying any approach to me must be by post and I will not speak about my investments over the telephone to a random caller. I did not catch his name or his company because of his poor language skills. He tried to continue but i stopped him with the same line. He then said something abusive and ended the call.

John says:
25 July 2020

I was contacted by Clarity Consulting Services about a shareholding in Allianz Technology Trust. This was a convincing scam as they knew a lot about the shareholding, and in a sequence of calls simulated a large office environment with supposed receptionists, secretaries, and brokers. They had created a bogus website (with text lifted from a large US law firm) and used the name of a genuine Kansas-based broker. As with other scams reported on this site, they first asked that I sign an NDA, and then sent me a contract that included a requirement to pay an up-front insurance payment to “guarantee” the transaction. At that point I declined, searched the internet, and realised that this was a common scam

George says:
27 July 2020

Just been contacted by a Chinese -sounding lady who said she was in America and started talking about “British Energy” shares which my wife held way back and then about a related scrip dividend – at that point I knew it was a scam call as BE had stopped trading in 2009 and said so, terminating the call. Interestingly, my wife told me she had had two similar calls from this person, over the last few days, which she terminated.

Amanda says:
27 July 2020

Have had a similar call today to that of George who posted at 14:13. It was a terrible connection; an Oriental-sounding woman saying she was calling from New York about shares held by my husband. I insisted any approach had to be by post and that if she had our telephone number she would also have our address and hung up. She left it a few minutes then called back. I repeated that any approach must be by post and that was that. Blasted scammers…….

Valerie Hill says:
28 July 2020

I was telephoned by an Oriental man saying he was phoning from New York, company Steep Financial Services Inc. Name Andrew Banks.
He knew that I am a British Airways shareholder.He said he represented a company who wanted to do a Hostile Tackeover . I would have to sign a non disclosure form which he emailed.Hesaid they had 43% but needed 51% to do the deal. He quoted £6 – £16 per share. He phoned again today I said I need time to speak to my Financial Advisor.I told him not to ring again.
The crooks are getting more and more inventive every day.

J G Goldsworth says:
30 July 2020

This scam continues today with an oriental sounding person undertaking on behalf of a client to pay£ 8 to£15 a share for my holding of British Airways share as they originallly which have now miraculously grown to ,500 shares of the almalgamated spanish /british operation. The pupose was as has been describedd on this web site. The operation is covered by an insurarnce companyt that wants participsaion by buyer and seller.More detail promised tomorrow.
The scammers know my address presumably from the Share register.