/ Scams

Scam watch: high-ranking Isa adverts

After a member of the public submitted contact details on a dodgy site, an imposter got in contact with them offering Pru bonds. Have you encountered a scam like this?

A member of the public searched ‘best rate Isa’ on a search engine and picked the top result. The site had a webform asking for their name, email address and phone number, which they submitted.

The next day a man called claiming to be from insurance and savings giant, Prudential. He sent a brochure about Pru bonds, containing Pru’s logo.

Oddly, he demanded they invest within the next fortnight, and that they pay by bank transfer.

Concerned, they contacted the (genuine) Prudential fraud team, which confirmed the contact was fraudulent. But the ‘Pru’ impostor kept calling, chasing an investment and offering to extend the deadline.

Fraudulent paid ads

It’s likely that the search result they clicked on is an ad that someone has paid for to be in that top position, unlike ‘organic’ results that achieve their high position through relevance and trustworthiness.

A recent Which? Money investigation showed that savings-related search terms on Google were littered with scam and unregulated sponsored results (although you used a different search engine in this instance).

It’s best to avoid search engine ads for financial services – to find the best savings products, see our guide here.

When you know which firm you want to use, confirm its real contact details and website on the Financial Conduct Authority financial services register.

It’s likely you will receive more scam calls and emails in future. Be wary of unsolicited contact, and consider a call-blocking device or service.

Have you encountered a scam through paid search engine advertising? Let us know in the comments.

Comments
Julie Grech says:
14 January 2021

My husband and I hAve been scammed out of £45000 by a very convincing email purporting to be from Aberdeen Standard Investors and Aviva. This was back last year when we both had 2 large sums of money to invest. It is only now after contacting the real companies that we realise it is a con.
My husband is 80 a d I am 75 and this is a real concern to us as we ha e always been very careful with investments but these people were so convincing.

Hi Julie – I am sorry to hear that you have been scammed and I do hope that you are able to recover your money. There is useful advice at the end of the introduction to this Conversation.

I am very sorry to hear of Julie’s and her husband’s misfortune. Unfortunately I doubt there can be reparation of the money stolen by fraudulent means but I hope they have reported the crime to the police and that it will be thoroughly investigated.

Somebody must have known that Mr & Mrs Grech had substantial sums looking for a home, since these out-of-the blue offers cannot be entirely coincidental. It pays to keep information like this completely confidential – although I am not suggesting that the Grech’s did not do so. I can only speculate where any disclosure occurred, but when people come into large sums it usually passes through a solicitor, bank, or other financial institution, so one has to be very wary. Not all their employees are honest.

People must learn not to respond to offers and promotions received via e-mails, however appealing they might appear. Financial schemes offered in newspapers and other relevant publications are reasonably safe because they are traceable and the adverts have been paid for. Contacting companies directly or, better still [as Malcolm recommends] through a regulated financial adviser, is probably the safest way to invest and can provide additional benefits in the form of management, advice and peace of mind.

A regulated financial adviser would be the best route to take for the many gullible who fall victim to these scams and who should never be let anywhere near a computer let alone the internet.

I find these Convos make objective replies very difficult because they respond to people who have suffered substantial loss and are often sensitive to the mistake they have found to have made. We have all done things that, in hindsight, we feel were ill thought through.

Useful advice is fine, but not useful in hindsight and only when it actually reaches the majority of people. I believe that we will never educate many people in the pitfalls of a wicked world; criminals are extremely clever, their potential customers are usually not knowledgeable about the territory they enter, are enticed by offers that should be viewed as too good to be true, and should keep clear of things they do not understand. I do not think that those many who are careful should automatically provide compensation unless a body involved has proved negligent, otherwise I suspect it will encourage more careless behaviour.

In financial matters I would use a professional fully accredited adviser. It will cost some money but in my experience that will be repaid in the quality and security of their service. I don’t know if Which? offer a list, which should include more than just the major providers, but that would be my safer solution.

Peter Kluj says:
14 January 2021

I recently contacted a company professing to be AXA and offering a very good rate of interest on any money I invested.
The gentleman I spoke to was very nice and offered to send me a prospectus which he dually did . When I checked the telephone numbers they did not tally with AXA’s numbers. I contacted AXA who confirmed it was a scam and that they were aware of someone using their name and logo to obtain monies from people. They said they were looking into the matter.

The police don’t have the resources to help in these matters and the Fraud office is a waste of taxpayers money, the way it functions at present. I reported a fraud and got 3 responses over a 6 month period – all identical, purporting to be on the case, but no action took place at all. Does anyone have any information regarding a positive activity by the Fraud Office? I would like to know if they achieve anything. Feels like some frauds could be snuffed easily, but I am not a banker.

As you say, the police dont have the resources or manpower to investigate. Occasionally you do read in the press of convictions but it was high profile and involved millions of pounds.
I dont think the will is really there either. The banks, even when blameless, are being pressured to compensate people so where is the incentive?

The common factor in all scams is the bank.
Why is it so easy for fraudsters to open and maintain bank accounts?
Why are accounts not monitored so that any money leaving the UK is subject to an intervention?
Why is there not an effective tracing system when funds leave an account? And get deposited?
The police within fraud prevention teams could have a closer relationship with banks to prevent scams in the first place.
Anonymity can be respected because account numbers vs customers are known only to banks. If scams are suspected, authority could be sought at a high level to compel banks to identify the customer.
We have moved to placing greater responsibility on banks, but what we have in the way of redress is still way below the capabilities of computer algorthms.
The Government (we, with public money) baled out the banks some years ago. Now is the time for banks to get much more involved in protecting the public from scams.

Bob Hoper says:
18 January 2021

The banks are the number 1 suspects the have been scamming the customers for donkeys years.
You only have to look at the PPI and other things they have done.
I wonder what will come out next we shall wait and see.

Intriguing. I have just searched for ‘Best Rate ISA’.
The top results were
1. Moneysavingexpert
2. Comparethemarket
3. Moneysupermarket
4. Which
5. Moneyfacts

All relevant and trustworthy websites I think which can give me more information.
So why didnt I see any suspicious websites or ads?
Must be because all searches I carry out are through DUCKDUCKGO.COM and NOT GOOGLE.
Look, first and foremost Google is a TRACKING company not a search engine.
Google trackers are lurking behind the scenes on 75% of the top million websites (and yes most likely Which.co.uk too) Even Facebook only has 25%!

I found these interesting facts and a lot more on ‘spreadprivacy’.
Search for it, but not through Google as goodness knows what it would show you.

I too use DUCKDUCKGO.COM and FIREFOX to avoid Google tracking. Everyone should be concerned with the tracking of their data as it’s becoming all encompasing.

Jonjo says:
17 January 2021

Thank you. I had not heard of DUCKDUCKGO.COM
Very important info

Alanwarwick says:
18 January 2021

Absolutely! That’s why my default pc search engine is most emphatically NOT google (like you I use DuckDuckGo.com)

TOP search results are always ADs, so bypass them always, the next top few are almost always from promoted SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) algorithms.
I suggest that you never click straight into a website. You should always scroll down or page down reading site names as you go, once you familiarise yourself with say the first two or 3 pages, then look back over them. This helps to understand what’s out there before you dive into one.

Intriguing. I have just searched for ‘Best Rate ISA’.
The top results were
1. Moneysavingexpert
2. Comparethemarket
3. Moneysupermarket
4. Which
5. Moneyfacts

All relevant and trustworthy websites I think which can give me more information.
So why didnt I see any suspicious websites or ads?
Must be because all searches I carry out are through duckduckgo.com and not Google.
Look, first and foremost Google is a tracking company not a search engine.
Google trackers are lurking behind the scenes on 75% of the top million websites (and yes most likely Which) Even Facebook only has 25%!

I found these interesting facts and a lot more on ‘spreadprivacy’.
Search for it, but not through Google as goodness knows what it would show you.

lyn williams says:
15 January 2021

I am receiving regular ‘Phone calls from a supposedly investment broker that offers me a 4% return on an investment of £10,000.If I say I’m interested they then send me an Email, supposedly from a well known co. that shows their logo and looks legit. But beware this is a scam.

Every day I receive about 6 emails in my junk folder saying from various senders that my bitcoin account has increased by various amounts ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds. I have never had any dealings with these companies or bitcoin. When you try to unsubscribe you’re never successful.

Roger Hayes says:
16 January 2021

Never Unsubscribe from these sites, it confirms your email is valid and they will then just sell it on. If they appear in your Junk folder, you have no worries about them do you.

I lost £20000 in an ISA investment, and despite a lot of effort have been unsuccessful in recovering it.
I had researched ISA rates on Comparethemarket.com, because my existing Fixed Term ISA was maturing, and the renewal rates were poor. I was phoned the next morning by a well spoken man from Citibank Asset Management. Their interest rate was attractive (though not so high as to ring alarm bells.) The subsequent paperwork that I received was totally convincing, and a bona fide Citibank FCA registration was quoted.
The investment was in February 2020, and I found out it was a scam in April. I reported it to my Bank (Nationwide) giving details of the account to which I’d transferred the money (at Santander). I registered with Action Fraud.Police, who transferred it to Greater Manchester Police. GMP subsequently wrote to say that it did not meet its “threshold criteria” and they will not be investigating.
The two Banks were quick to claim that their protocols had been met. The emphasis was to avoid blame rather than to help me as the victim. I reported Santander to the Financial Ombudsman, questioning why they had opened accounts for fraudulent activities. Needless to say the accounts were empty.
I am disappointed by the total lack of help that I have received. There does not seem to be adequate support for the victims of this type of fraud.
Since clearly I am one of many victims, I am amazed that there is no overall police investigation going on. I have not been able to find out about it if there is one.

Jeremy, I’m really sorry to hear this but thanks indeed for sharing your story. I hope it will help others to avoid getting scammed.

From history books, I can see that investment scams are nothing new, but the digital age does often seem to help fraudsters get away scot free.

When my garage was burgled a few years ago, I was upset but not surprised to be told that the crime was below the investigation threshold of my local police. That said, the police response seems very poor in your case. Do they think they are only there to look after the very rich?

Martin at Dorridge says:
18 January 2021

With all these scams – begs the question why the banks are not held totally capable. Why are they allowing bank accounts to be opened / used by by fraudsters !!!! What are the FCA doing about it ?

I agree Martin. Is it too much to ask that new business accounts are kept under close scrutiny so that they can be suspended as soon as illegal activity is detected? Perhaps those who open new business accounts should have to pay a generous deposit that could be forfeited in the event of fraudulent use of banking and card services.

Elizabeth Price says:
23 January 2021

I have been a victim of the same thing, lost £32000 not yet sure what is going to happen. Both had copies of paperwork from companies I have contracts with. Both had all the website, portals linked to the companies or a fake one for you to see your investment. On returning to the emails and transactions I can now see on replies that the emails have the odd spelling the rest was very slick, professional and trying to check out they led me to genuine sites.

Google appears to play a major role in these scams. Let us hope that the legal authorities redefine Google as a publisher which will pin proper responsibility on what appears on screen. This would help to stop these scams and allow victims to reclaim their losses.

Bryan says:
19 January 2021

I was scared for £175000.00 by a company called NVESTOX supposed office in Bahrain,I have found out don’t haveoffice there,and not registered with Bank of Bahrain,police say can’t do anything really,they are as much good as tits on a bull,sorry can take a pensioner for parking

Robert says:
21 May 2021

It appears I am a victim of Nvestox too. I have tried without any success to research the validity of this company…. Including trying to check if they do have offices in Bahrain, New York and Moscow
Any info would be most welcome.

Bryan says:
23 May 2021

They don’t have offices in Bahrain in the west tower,in the west tower is government office and not registered with bank of Bahrain,this Chandler does not exist,in love to find one of them please contact me Bryan

Robert says:
29 May 2021

I am not too sure about your claim that the West Tower is a government only building….In my searches I found a host of high profile companies registered there, banks, law firms and accountants including KPMG….
Anyway, none of that is important.
Have you received an email informing you they (Nvestox) has sold the busines???

You might want to look at this video that was issued in 2019.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz0VGnTAxLw

It ends with requesting you report it to Action Fraud if you have been a victim.

How did you come to invest with these scammers?

Bryan says:
4 June 2021

Yes I received email informing me they have sold nvestox to a company in Dubai please answer Bryan

Robert says:
5 June 2021

Yes …same as. I have emailed that company asking them if they have aquired Nvestox.
Emails to Nvestox now bounce back and their website is closed.
Seems they gave gone to ground.

Hi Robert
Just to let you know Nvestox has not sold to any company.
Can i ask, when you were actually in contact with them was it by a USA telephone number?
Also i am wondering how is it that this company can have a website and clearly advertise themselves with certain other websites about they business but have been under the radar as for been governed by a financial authority..

Not true Brian am afraid.

Robert says:
11 June 2021

Originally from Bahrain number then New York USA number flagged up which when I queried it was passed off due to their using a VoIP phone system.
From my raising this query all further calls came as an unknown number.
Since liquidating my portfolio I have been chasing them for many months to return my money.
I can no longer contact them as my emails are returned undelivered and calls unanswered.

Alan says:
21 January 2021

A well-spoken “gentleman” rang me recently and told me that he and I had discussed problems with inheritance tax “last year” and did I now want to discuss it further. I knew I hadn’t discussed it with him, or anybody, ever!) so it was obviously a “try-on”. Perhaps he knew that I am over 80 and would be deficient in marbles and therefore forgetful! I just said ” No thank you” and put the phone down. I considered it a good idea to draw people’s attention to this one and be on the lookout for it. I strongly suspect that the conversation would have gone well beyond just inheritance tax if I had let it.

James Nicholas LAWRENCE says:
24 January 2021

I recently looked for the best cash ISA’s rates as I had a maturing ISA, I was asked to fill in a Form with my name telephone number & email address, it also asked for what interest rate, are you looking for, to avoid risky investments, I put 2%.
The next day I received a prospectus purporting to be from Aviva and that the subscription date was the 17th November as my ISA was fixed and did not mature until the 31st, I did not respond,
The next day a very well spoken man (I will not call him a gentleman) phoned to say that they also had a similar ISA from AXA which did not expire until 31st November, both prospectus’s were very professionally presented, and I nearly fell for it.
I informed both AXA and Aviva, they both were aware of the scams, and have notifications on their respective web sites, I fortunately phoned AXA before I transferred my ISA over to the scum bags, involved, please be careful as they are very convincing, if it sounds to good to be true it probably is always ask a family member or a financial advisor first before parting with your hard earned money,
I was lucky but I did stupidly give mt National Insurance number to the man on the phone I only hope I do not have any ramifications from that.

Bryan says:
23 May 2021

If anything on NVESTOX contact Bryan

Bryan says:
24 May 2021

ROBERT I’d love to talk to you about NVESTOX my name is Bryan [edited] they really shafted me,and I’m over 81 popping to here from you. Bryan

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to remove a personal email address. Please do not post personal contact details or other personally identifiable information – this is for everyone’s privacy. For more information see the Community guidelines]

Bryan – You are advised in the Community Guidelines not to post personal contact details (email, phone number, address) whether they’re yours or someone else’s. This is for your own protection and internet security.

Bryan says:
28 May 2021

Well I posted my e mail address,thinking I’d be able to get in contact with some one that has been done by nvestox,I’m 82 but if I get my hands on one of them I’ll go to p for them thanks for your information bryan

Robert says:
7 June 2021

Hi Bryan….I would love to discuss this with you but unfortunately that facility is not available on this platform.
I have not yet had any response to my email sent to the company who Nvestox say they have sold out to …I am not holding my breath either.
If I get reply I will let you know.

Hi Robert did you not get an email from Nvestox stating their intentions as to the sale of the company?

Hi Bryan
I also have been taken for a ride with this scam company,
we need to find out who is the best people to find the criminals involved.

Nvestox have not sold to any company

Robert says:
11 June 2021

Yes I did get an email to that effect
I have emailed the company in Dubai that Nvestox has supposedly sold out to but have not received any reply.
Somehow I am not surprised.