/ Money

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?

Alan Hogg says:
4 December 2020

Currently in contact with PMC Group, New York. Trying to buy my 10 IAG / BA shares for $7 to $15 (although today she changed it to £7 to £15 😀 ). I’ve been told that the 10 shares have grown to 2800 shares – (“and, so there’s the nice good news” – Filipino Accent). The moment she used the word ‘Pounds’ instead of ‘Dollars’ I smelled a scam. Then she went on about an insurance bond. I stopped her and said “it sounds like you want us to pay something… we haven’t got anything!”. She tried to explain that it’s not a payment. I’m guessing she won’t be in contact any more because they know when someone smells a rat and it’s not worth their time. (I signed a NDF too on line… I’ll ignore that and tell everyone I meet).

Tina spink says:
9 December 2020

I have just had this call and also signed a non disclosure form online. I will now be ignoring their phone calls from new york. It was too good to be true told me my shares had grown from 31 to 2500/

Michael Riley says:
8 December 2020

My mam who’s nearly 80 has just had a similar call from a Callahan Corporate Partners, saying my dad who has since passed away had shares in Norman Broadnent PLC and they are looking to do a hostile takeover and will be offering £7 – £15 per share.
They have just sent me a memorandum of Non-Disclosure for my mam to sign and their web site looks reasonable but not what I’d expect from a company of that nature.
Don’t think we’ll be getting back to them

Also had a call Today 9 Dec 2020 from an office saying they acting forCallahan Corporate Partners
Address: 62 Walker Street New York, NY 10013, USA…Phone: 1 516 916 5733….Fax: 1 516 277 0043
Email Address: info@callahancorporatepartners.com
Website: http://www.callahancorporatepartners.com...
They were interested in buying my shares in PETARD ( formly Screen Plc ) at way above market price..
( 7 – 10 times above …),?? apparently its a HOSTILE takeover .. and considering they don’t know me , I’m not to tell anyone …etc etc …… you know what they say .. if its too good to believe its too good to be true… thanks to person who set up this web site .. it was easy to find ..

Dave Lockwood says:
11 December 2020

My mother has had 3 phone calls from so called `Jackson Associates` in NY asking to buy shares back for a takeover, which she sold last year. Very long phone calls but the insurance bond bit has`nt been mentioned yet. Definitely a scam.

Just had a call from ‘Benchmark Consulting Group in New York’ wanting to buy Sainsburys shares on behalf of a client for a takeover. Already suspicious so interested to find this thread.

Alexis Simmons says:
17 December 2020

Very similar experiences this month to those quoted above – IAG (BA) shares in a takeover bid – I hold just 10 ordinary shares, and was advised that these had increased to 4000! I was promised that a successful takeover gave them a value of £13 per share, worth £54,000! As soon as the “refundable” bond deposit of £5,500 was mentioned I extracted myself from the conversation – beware everyone – it all looks very professional but it ain’t!

Charlotte says:
23 December 2020

My experience is so like all these others!
On 14th December I had a call from Joe Miranda of Bluerock Financial Services. He said that his company was representing a buyer wishing to make a top secret hostile takeover of IAG, formerly BA; the buyer already had 43% of the shares and would be willing to pay me well over the market rate for my (86) shares. I asked how he had my details and he said they were available on the Shareholders’ Register. I asked why they were interested in such a small number of shares as mine and he said that it was not shares but shareholders that counted. IAG shares are trading for about £1.60 at the moment, but he said that the buyer would offer a premium rate of between £8 and £15 a share. He asked that I complete a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), and I did so, after he had assured me that this did not commit me to anything further. Over the next three days I had follow-up calls from Jean Andersen and Alicia Ridge, who were now saying that the buyer had 41% not 43%. Their legal department had discovered that I actually had 2860 bonus/incentive shares, which had no market value, and for which I have no paperwork, but which would be included in the purchase offer. The transaction would be underwritten by an insurance company, with 70–90% covered by the buyer, and the remaining 10–30% covered by me, in a refundable upfront payment.

I looked at the Bluerock website which seems very convincing and well put together, but then started searching for information about scams and am very happy that I came across this site, where what I have experienced is replicated in almost every detail. When Alicia Ridge rang back to finalise matters, I told her that I had done my due diligence and was certain that this was a scam. She put up a spirited defence, saying that there are many lies on the internet, that huge numbers of people had accepted this offer, including members of the IAG board, that people often could not believe that they could be entitled to such a large amount of money, and that she was very resilient and used to being cursed and sworn at. She asked that I honour the NDA, but I said that, as far as I was concerned, it was null and void, that I would report them and that they should not contact me again. They have not been in touch again since. The Bluerock details are below:

Bluerock Financial Services
498 7th Ave New York, NY 10018, USA
Phone Number: 1 914 303 5163
Fax Number: 1 914 462 3556
E-Mail: info@bluerockfinancialserv.com
Website: http://www.bluerockfinancialserv.com

It looks as though I am being targeted with a very similar scam which started mid December 2020. The company that has rung me 4 or 5 times on my home UK phone (a number I never give out) is called Stanwood Corporate Partners, a US firm. First it told me that a party wanted to buy the shares I bought 30+ years ago and that they would be worth around £37,000. They asked me and my daughter who I asked to speak on my behalf on the phone as I am partially deaf, to sign a non disclosure agreement. We didn’t straight away but they chased up with 2 or 3 phone calls. The individuals we spoke to on the phone all sounded intelligent, articulate and plausible. Once they had the NDA they said they would come back to us when the terms of the deal was finalised. They rang today and told us the good news that the shares were now worth over £70k and deal had been agreed and spun a very convincing story about needing to buy into an insurance bond for around £5k which both buyer and seller had to buy into as a security in case either side pulled out (in which case we would be fully refunded). My daughter is a lawyer and I am a professional and we were both almost convinced, it was so plausible. However I have never had to pay a sum of money in order to sell anything including shares so was suspicious. It didn’t take much googling to find that this is almost certainly a scam. A pity as I was already planning what I would do with the money. These people prey on our greed!

Richard says:
14 January 2021

Unfortunately they are still alive and kicking.
I have just had a call from a Rachel Walker of CALLAHAN CORPORATE PARTNERS in the states digging for some information, and claiming they had a ‘buyer’ for some long defunct shares I once held.
They had got contact name from old companies register.
I was quick enough to smell a rat and sent them packing, but it is a worry for older/ more vulnerable people who can be easily drawn in.

David says:
14 January 2021

Anybody had similar calls from Falcon from the USA? A very similar situation to the ones outlined in this thread i.e. phone and then email contact about old shares. Then an NDA and the offer of a high mark up for the original shares and lots more scrip shares.

Tazza says:
14 January 2021

Yeah just had one about my late father’s shares in International Power, which is apparently about to be taken over by her client. Thing is, International Power was bought lock, stock & barrel in 2012 by GDF Suez… So I’m struggling to understand what the hell she was on about! 🙂
Don’t think she’ll be calling back…