Be on your guard with the 'invisible' investment firm
This investment firm has a glossy-looking website, and promises great returns to its customers. So why is it hiding itself from search engines?
Do you remember "Margaret Johnson"? Perhaps not but she featured in the Beware the Invasion of the Scam Clones blog back in April.
I put her name in quote marks because I do not believe it to be her real name. When she first called me several months ago, she was at pains to tell me that she was registered with the Financial Services Authority. This was intended to reassure me although no FSA-regulated investment firm is allowed to cold call. Nevertheless, I did take a peek at the FSA register and found one woman called Margaret Mary Johnson.
But this real Margaret Johnson had not worked in financial services for the best part of a decade and so, as with everything else in that article, it was clear that the identities of real and unconnected people had been stolen.
At that time, the phoney Margaret Johnson was working for Weizmann & Young, a boiler room which claimed (wrongly) to be authorised in Switzerland where it has an address in Zurich and also claimed offices in London and Hong Kong.
Well now Johnson has changed jobs. She no longer works for Weizmann & Young but for Wakeman & Loewe. The similarity between the names may, of course, be purely coincidental. But Wakeman & Loewe also claims to have offices in London, Zurich and Hong Kong. And while the London and Zurich premises are different maildrop addresses, the building given for the Hong Kong address is identical. All the addresses would appear to be “prestigious”.
So could it be a fair assumption that they are at least related?
The actual location is unlikely to be in any of these three cities – you certainly would not find Johnson, who told me she worked in London, in any of these addresses.
When Johnson phoned me out of the blue a few days ago, she made much of the fact that we had a previous relationship. This is standard practice with boiler rooms to explain what would otherwise be cold calling. But she told me we had last spoken in December (treating the eight month gap as something natural) when the reality was a conversation in April.
Never mind. She used all the textbook boiler room “chat-up lines” such as “how are your investments doing today,” and “this is just a courtesy call to introduce our services” followed by the classic “I do not have an investment to recommend today but I am told my directors will release an opportunity in the next few days and I want you to be among the first to hear about it.”
Johnson's job – as before when she was at Weizmann & Young – is to soften up potential victims. She leaves the hard sell stuff to a “senior analyst” colleague.
Last time, Weizmann & Young sold phoney fixed rate bonds paying huge interest rates, but with the option of taking a withdrawal at any time without penalty. Should Wakeman & Loewe ever come back with an “investment” recommendation, lovemoney.com fans will be the first to know.
But despite Wakeman & Loewe's desire to tell me of its “mission to provide clients the highest level of investment and strategic advice, service and individualized attention”, it is strangely reticent to advertise its presence.
Try entering “Wakeman & Loewe” into your favourite search engine. When I do so, it says “no results”. Take off the quote marks and you get Loewe handbags and a funeral home. You would think that a firm that is “privileged to offer and known for investment success, absolute integrity and unwavering devotion to our clients’ best interests” would not want to hide itself.
Its website is wakemanloewe.com where it says “We are privileged to offer and known for investment success, absolute integrity and unwavering devotion to our clients’ best interests.” Besides hiding it from search engines, the firm has also concealed who owns the site and even where the server is based.
Remember that Johnson and friends expect victims to invest at least £5,000 – so she won't need too many hits a week to be very rich!
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