More than 700 potential UK victims have been identified, among thousands worldwide targeted by a boiler room fraud that was run from Romania.
National Crime Agency investigators believe the fraud, primarily offering false investments, was being carried out on a mass scale before it was closed down in September last year.
Three Romanian nationals were detained during a series of searches by NCA investigators and Romanian Police officers at apartments in north Bucharest.
Since September, work has been underway to identify victims of the fraud. So far, a potential 700 plus UK victims have been identified and a further 4,000 overseas. While work continues to identify more of the victims, the NCA is keen that potential victims come forward so that appropriate advice and support can be provided.
Branch Commander Suzanne Foster from the NCA’s Complex Financial Crime Team, said: “The impact of this fraud on victims, both financially and psychologically, is significant. Losses are already over £1 million. This figure will grow as we identify more victims.
“Tackling fraud is a priority for the NCA. Our global reach and strong relationships with international partners means we can target fraudsters wherever they are in the world.
“If you think you may have been a victim of this fraud, please be assured that there is support available and you can make a report to Action Fraud.”
The apartments raided were rented solely for the purpose of running call-centres where the callers scoped out targets, and reinitiated contact with victims already defrauded through a separate investment scheme.
Aware that the victims would be vulnerable and desperate for solutions to get their money back, the scammers would say they were working for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or other regulatory body, and claimed that they could help recover losses for an upfront fee. When victims paid, the money was swiftly transferred away into a crypto wallet and communication would cease.
Officers seized material that indicated a script was followed to make calls to victims and false referrals to the ‘FCA Crypto Department’. High Value crypto currency wallets were identified but on examination were found to be false and suspected to have been used to demonstrate to victims that recovered funds were available to repay their initial investment losses.
The NCA are in the process of contacting people who may have been targeted. If you believe you have been a victim of this fraud we would encourage you to report the matter to Action Fraud - 0300 123 2040.
Similarly if you have been contacted by companies or individuals that offer to ‘recover’ any funds lost to a different fraudulent investment scheme or other fraud we would also encourage that you report it to Action Fraud.
Mark Steward, FCA Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, said: “We welcome this action by the National Crime Agency and the Romanian Police and we will support ongoing investigations as required.
“We would never contact people asking them to transfer money to us. If someone does, it’s highly likely to be a scam. If you’re unsure and want to check that you’re speaking to someone at the FCA, hang up and call our consumer helpline (0800 111 6768). Consumers should only deal with an FCA authorised firm and should use the Financial Services Register on the FCA website to check.
“We urge consumers to visit our ScamSmart page for information about how they can protect themselves from investment fraud as well as details about warnings we have issued about firms.”
Criminals may pretend to be a trusted person or company when they call, email or message you. If something seems suspicious or unexpected, such as requests for money or information, listen to your doubts and contact the organisation directly to check.
Make sure you use contact details from their official website, which you can find by searching for the company on Google or another trusted search engine. Never use the phone numbers or web addresses in the message.
15 February 2023