A bank employee counts pound notes at Kasikornbank in Bangkok
FILE PHOTO: A bank employee counts pound notes at Kasikornbank in Bangkok, Thailand, October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

November 28, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 200 British retail investors have lost nearly 10 million pounds ($13.4 million) in total to sophisticated investment scams since a government lockdown in March to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a trade body said on Saturday.

Fraudsters cloned genuine investment management firms’ websites and documentation, and advertised fake products on sham price comparison websites and on social media, the Investment Association said.

Greater financial uncertainty and more time spent online have likely contributed to the increase in scams, industry sources say.

Losses amounted to 9.4 million pounds ($12.56 million) between March and mid-October, the IA said, based on information it got from member firms which had been cloned.

“In a year clouded in uncertainty, organised criminals have sought opportunity in misfortune by attempting to con investors out of their hard-earned savings,” Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association said.

The investment management industry was working closely with police and regulators to stop the scams, he added.

Britain’s Action Fraud warned earlier this month that total reported losses from all types of investment fraud came to 657 million pounds between September 2019 and September 2020, a rise of 28% from a year ago. Reports spiked between May and September, following Britain’s first national lockdown, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre added.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; ediitng by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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