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Scam watch: the share-buying phone scam

Telephone with scamwatch email

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.

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?

adele says:
22 February 2018

It is now 2018 and this exact scam -hostile bid – offering to pay a premium with a high multiple for the shares. non-disclosure agreement, insurance bond to be paid upfront, is still up and running. Superficially credible web-site but on investigation was only created three weeks ago.

mike says:
25 April 2018

I have been contacted twice with a similar thing, once in December & again today.
These guys are offering to buy Telephonica shares (that I don’t have).
The story is that they are buying them as part of a hostile takeover & would first need me to sign a non disclosure agreement.

AGL says:
27 April 2018

Just been contacted by company in Seattle seeking Maverick Entertainment Shares.
Offering very high price for me to sign them over to them. (SCAM) want me to sign the Non Disclosure form and post an Insurance Bond. Just waiting for the details so I can inform the authorities and hopefully get it shutdown.

R H Bagley says:
23 July 2018

Have had this scam for Mos Bros shares from three different US contacts in the past. Just had the same scam attempt for Johnson Matthey shares. Always offer a share price too good to be true and a confidentiality agreement so you know its a scam

Tracey A. says:
26 July 2018

Thank you all for “sharing” excuse the pun. But i was so close to falling for this SCAM. All details EXACTLY same info, offered high price for shares, incentive shares added, hostile take over, sent non-disclosure for signature. Looked totally legit website and its only thanks to reading your comments/experiences that saved me falling victim to this disgusting SCAM. To whom do i report this please?

David Curran says:
31 July 2018

AS of today (31st July 2018), this scam still running. Have had a “gentleman” from supposedly Cooper Consultancy Ltd.com, based in New York, call me with similar patter about my holding of shares in Wood Group. They have sent a non-disclosure doc to complete and return, which no doubt would be followed up by requirement (which was spoken of), of paying for an insurance bond. Little doubt that at a minimum, this is what they are targeting. Have not sent doc back, but keep getting phone calls every 5-10 minutes chasing me to do so.

Louise Stroude says:
31 August 2018

My father had a call a few days ago from a guy in Cooper Consulancy about a hostile take over. So glad I checked this out and read your comments as we were thinking of signing up. Many thanks


Just had a phone call tonight from Bernstein New York asking me to sell my shares in a company I had previously worked for.This too was for a hostile takeover.They offered me a good price above market value.At first I wondered how they got my details.
Then thought is this a scam?
Little did they know I lived in New York for a number of years and rented an apartment from the Vice President of Bernstein in Park Slope Brooklyn.
So after a few questions they knew they were had and put down the phone.
If I had not lived in New York and known a bit about the company I feel I could have easily been taken in as they were so convincing.
I would not think I was naive and quite cautious but this just goes to show how easily one can be taken in.

Why is something not being done with all these scams?
Theses days I find it hard to distinguish what is legitimate or not.


I just had a call from someone claiming to be from an organisation called Friedlanders, saying I had unclaimed incentive shares from Reed Elsevier, with whom I did indeed have shares from a company share scheme, but I sold them all long ago. I kept asking him to get to the point but he wouldn’t and I sensed this was a scam so I told him I would contact my financial adviser about claiming the shares back if indeed they do exist (I am very doubtful). He then hung up.